I am well aware that I am not in the target audience for Disney’s Maleficent. I am male, in my 20s and fairly orthodox when it comes to story structure; in other words, there are plenty of reasons to write off my opinion and go see it (though I am not advising total avoidance).
Just be warned that the movie has major story-telling problems and viewers might have difficulty figuring out what exactly is disengaging them.
In an era with movies like Up that entice the attention of both children and adults via efficient openings, Maleficent drastically falls short. While other films conjure characterization, motivation and stakes within the first few minutes, Maleficent is more worried about magic, scenery and side characters.
Half an hour passes before the inciting incident (a battle) occurs and there is not even a why behind it. Maleficent (played by Angelina Jolie) proves to be the most powerful fairy, but there’s no real explanation of how she got that way (the character starts the movie as a child played by Isobelle Molloy).
The remainder of the film is pushed by a forceful narrative hand and comprised of semi-related events with little to no explanations. Though Maleficent is the primary character, she gives a blurry sense of her desires and doesn’t really have her stakes raised… ever. As a viewer my attention was engaged, but I wasn’t invested.
I saw the 3D version. The glasses aren’t normally a distraction, but I found myself consistently asking why I was watching a movie in 3D that hardly used 3D effects.
Otherwise the cinematography and graphics were decent, but nothing stood out. I may have had higher expectations of this aspect because of the rich hand-drawn art in the Disney’s original Sleeping Beauty; but nothing in Maleficent even got to the level of Oz the Great and Powerful.
The performances of the actors is best lumped into the ‘meh’ category too. This includes Jolie’s prosthetic cheekbones. Did you really think those were real?
Normally it’s the women in movies that are brushed over in terms of characterization, but in Maleficent it’s the male characters that are put in this predicament. Though they do have a few common denominators: they’re all pretty stupid and nobody cares about them.
Worse than the underdevelopment of the males are the glossed over relationships between characters. None of the plentiful romance in the movie sells itself as convincing. Even the whatever-is-going-on between Maleficent and her man-crow-pet (Diaval played by Sam Riley) seems meaningless.
I don’t want to rub salt in the wounds, but the magic doesn’t make sense at all either. Maleficent wields the power to bring the story to a swift and sweet conclusion at so many points, but doesn’t. The imaginative concepts are cool, but appear disjointed from their narrative application.
If kids (under 16) are able to keep up with the fast-paced plot, they will probably enjoy this movie. The humor is of the simple knee slapping and playful mud slinging variety. The monsters and scenery are alluring as well.
Despite its plethora of cerebral problems Maleficent still succeeds at keeping itself entertaining. It has unexpected plot twists and is fun to compare to the original Sleeping Beauty. But let it go to Netflix first.
Images via: Walt Disney Studios