Sunday, 1 June 2014

Maleficent (2014) Review

Spoiler warning!

Maleficent was a truly brilliant film, a complete subversion of all the cliche Disney tropes. While I think she is a good actress from what I've seen (mainly being Girl, Interrupted and Salt), I wouldn't say Angelina Jolie's acting was phenomenal. But, they crafted a well thought out and sympathetic redeeming of Maleficent's character, and I'm not sure who, or how they could have done a better job theatrically. In comparison to Charlize Theron's evil queen from the Snow White and the Huntsman, aesthetically they are at a match - the costuming was beautiful. Particular moments that I thought were emotionally moving were both, the scene where Maleficent awoken to her wings having been taken, and also Jolie showed her resentment for the baby very well/humorously.

There is most often a good reason behind villainy that's always left not expanded upon. So, I've been looking forward to this film for some time, given it elaborates on Maleficent's previously very one dimensional back story. For the first of hopefully many more villain protagonist orientated films, this was delivered fantastically and fit in well with the original story canon. I don't buy the whole 'audience gain pleasure from familiarity', good vs. evil formula, which is why I often lean towards indie and horror in search of films. Not for predictability in genre, but for films from more obscure perspectives. Hannibal: the Beginning is a mediocre example of this.

The special effects in Maleficent were very LOTR-esque, I noticed, although very impressive (the light shooting up into the sky looked identical to Minas Morgul.)

The only element that caused internal debate for me was why the director chose to make Maleficent the one who decides to put Aurora in a death "sleep". Merryweather was the one who lessened the severity of the curse in the Disney version, and, if Maleficent's desire for vengeance was so strong, I don't think she would show King Stefan or his offspring any leniency. She originally wanted Aurora dead, right out. But then, I also agree with the concept that Maleficent's 'evil' nature and villainy is not as dichotomous as cinema portrays and she probably might have some compassion left to entertain toying with King Stefan. There's also the "true love doesn't exist" cynicism present to consider - much down to personal beliefs, but it certainly has a resonance in the context of the rest of the film. I also agree with Jolie's statement in one of her recent interviews with Buzzfeed, that innocent bystanders often taken the brunt of vendettas, and I personally would have liked to see King Stefan suffer more. Not his wife, or his child. The way Maleficent was portrayed as a guardian, or 'fairy godmother' given how inept the fairies were I found to be realistic and believable - I seem to remember the fairies as bumbling and irresponsible.

The overall tone was touching, and the readjustment of ideals in regards to 'happily-ever-after's', was a refreshing departure from stifling perspectives of one track formulas to happiness, and moral stereotypes of character. As argued in Gilbert & Gubar's 'Madwoman in the Attic' essay, the more breakthroughs regarding character tropes, the better, particularly with female characters and their fictional expectations. The subversion of 'true love's kiss' was fantastic. No, I don't believe this is pushing the lesbian front - I think the patriarchal damsel in distress and true love reliance concept is ridiculous. If love was ever at it's strongest or most sincere, it would be familial/maternal. While of course love isn't necessarily always present in a familial environment, but that brings us onto another debate entirely.

Rating: 9/10

Reviewed by Abigail Lewis

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