Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Maleficent Is No Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty, for all intents and purposes, is a masterpiece. The idea of retelling it in Wicked fashion, while intriguing, is absolutely not necessary and requires legitimate care and understanding of what the source material really is.
Maleficent, to my mind, is a stunning failure of understanding and precision. Poor pacing, vanity project-like Angelina sequences (though she was quite good to be fair), and an absolute failure at retelling the original story... destroys this film. It breaches every sense of good filmmaking that I hold dear. And while there were shining moments of sincerity, I spent the majority of the film's run time wondering where Prince Phillip had gone to... considering he was the main character of the original film. But the filmmakers felt content making a mockery of his role particularly when you consider this... in the history of Disney fairytale movies, only one prince has actually stood up to the villain and shown true heroism. That prince was Phillip. To say that he has nothing to do with saving the princess and to say he never even actually fights the villain lays waste to generations of heroic expectations.
True, that may be my male expectations at play, but it's not even the most egregious oversight in Maleficent. On the opposite end of the coin, Maleficent is legitimately the greatest terror Disney has ever made. She's a dark, spiteful woman who turns into A DRAGON! One of the coolest dragons in film history to be honest. To jump into the ending of this movie and tell us, first, that she never was the dragon but it was someone else, and second, that it was a subpar and completely uncreative version of that dragon (similar to... forgive my comparison... Mortal Kombat Annihilation) just shattered my heart. A note to any future filmmakers, if your intention is to make a movie telling the "actual story" of one of the greatest villains in film history... please be prepared to give us that story in full before explaining to us why it's "okay" that they were doing such bad things.
Before you walk into Maleficent (assuming you haven't seen it yet), ask yourself a question: "How is a great villain not a villain?" You'll probably talk yourself in circles for the foreseeable future.
I wasn't planning to get into this here, but why the hell not? Maleficent is feminism at its most brutal. I do believe our younger generation of girls deserves to see women positively portrayed in film.. it's been harsh out there in the past. But I feel Disney was accomplishing that in films like Frozen and Tangled where the girls are the heroes. That to me is fine storytelling. They weren't telling us that the men were all evil. But Maleficent stuck to this point with brutal disregard for what affect it may have on young girls' perspectives on men in general.
I cannot believe how misused Sharlto Copley was here. It's kind of disgusting to watch another visual effects guy turned director completely misuse such a brilliant talent... but no one seems to understand his talent or care. He can cary movies on his shoulders (District 9 is plenty of proof of that). But I digress. It's not really Robert Stromberg's fault such a message came out so fiercely. Linda Woolverton has done a few incredible things in her career, but this script (and who's to say it's all her script and wasn't "touched up" by Disney execs) isn't one of them. I don't mind King Stefan being a dislikable character... a bad person even. That makes sense. But to turn the third act of the film into this absurd action thing without any final discussion between Maleficent and Stefan seems... well just once I would have liked to hear her say "You started this, I took it too far, but it doesn't have to be this way" or something to that effect. She didn't even attempt to talk. And he came across as a totally insane person to the point that even his men were just staring at him talking to himself in one scene.
Ugh, this movie just makes me upset on so many levels. To the filmmakers I say, "If you wanted to tell THIS story, you shouldn't have disguised it as an already existing and very much beloved tale. This is something else. It's an agenda, poorly defined and irresponsibly conceived. You should be ashamed of yourselves."

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