As my brother has posted this is the holiday season, thus the lack of posting. It is also a time to catch up on entertainment. I have seen two movies of late: The third part of the Hobbit and Maleficent. Today I will write a short reflection on the latter.
Maleficent was meh. I had extremely low expectations having watched recent remakes like Mirror Mirror (very clean and simple) and Snow White and the Huntsman (truly terrible film). The movie did not exceed them. On the other hand, it was not frustratingly worse than I had expected.
Angelina Jolie had a great scene when she cursed the baby Aurora. Otherwise her acting was good, but not great. The acting of the other primary characters was terrible, while some of the tertiary characters were better acted. The visuals pulled heavily from Lord of the Rings. The vine monsters were kind of neat, but completely unnecessary (as were many of the elements). The story was a mess. The writing was terrible. And the world development was a mess.
Maleficent was trying to give a different perspective to the class Disney Sleeping Beauty while at the same time still retreading very familiar material. Unfortunately in attempting to make the villain sympathetic, Disney cleaned her up to heroic level. In order to accomplish this unnecessary feet, the writers had to create a different villain (the king, Aurora’s father) and kill all characterization of the other characters. Aurora came off as simple, in the classical sense. For a princess, Aurora did not fill me with confidence for the future of her land. She seemed the sort of oblivious individual that would get lost in her own castle.
I found Stefan (the king) a poorly organized character. He was an orphan (and that is sad), in order to make a connection to the fey Maleficent (also a sad orphan). Stefan was driven by greed to excessive and unexplained proportions. His actions seemed as inconsistent as his vaguely and randomly Scottish accent. By the end he was so irrationally evil that no one, including his perfect daughter, mourned his death.
Actually, this reflects a problem with the world building. One human kingdom is located next to a full blown fey kingdom. Naturally an all-powerful king rules over the Human lands. While the Fey live via democracy, at least until Maleficent goes on a vengeance kick and subjugates all the other, conveniently smaller fairies. Of course, when Maleficent is finally redeemed as a character at the end of the film she then crowns Aurora as Queen of the Fey kingdom – and yet no one sees this as a problem?
Also, if the Humans had been living next to the Fey for so long, why were they so surprised and baffled by magic? It should have been normal or at least explained why it was not normal. Also, after the Humans spontaneously declare war on the fey and Maleficent repels them at cost, why do three little fairies go to help the king and bless his daughter?
At the end of the day the motivations for Maleficent becoming the evil sorcerer that she is famous for, were far from compelling. Her redemption was contrived. It was … not good. A better direction to take the story would be to start with the cursing. Then work out the why behind the actions. As my brother suggested, I wouldn’t redeem Maleficent. I would however explain in sympathetic terms why she became evil. It would be done in a way that while Maleficent’s actions were explained and understood, the audience could also sit back and see she was still evil and should not have done the curse. I also wouldn’t have her as a fairy, just a sorcerous. Furthers, since we know the story of Sleeping Beauty, I would not worry about having all the familiar elements. Why rehash old material when time could be better spent telling a new and interesting story. I also wouldn’t randomly make the King evil just to have a villain – Maleficent is the villain, the story should be why.
The bottom line: Maleficent took one of the greatest, most recognizable villains and forced her to be a weakly explained, psuedo-hero.