Tuesday, June 3, 2014

She's not so bad, She's Just....misunderstood.

I had a sense this movie was going to be uninteresting: just another repetitive damsel in distress film (but told from another perspective). In some senses this turned out to be true; however I was pleasantly surprised to find the movie did have some redeeming qualities in it.

For starters, and I hope this doesn't spoil too much, but it is NOT the same story the animated version tells. this was great because there's really no point in re-hashing a story everyone knows already. If you go to see the movie don't expect everything to line up even though the same basic setting and characters are involved. Its best to just watch the story unfold as if you've never seen its predecessor. I want to take some time to review each aspect of the film then give it an overall score.

Graphics, visual and audio effects: 8/10
The CGI was pretty good but you could definitely tell the difference between the live action and the animated parts. You get to see some pretty interesting creatures and environmental effects like the huge impassible brambles definitely set the tone for a fantasy movie. I thought the choice of how to render the fairies was unimaginative, but it was nice that they had live action roles to supplement the CGI for part of their screen time.

Music: 5/10
You could hardly notice it was there. To me that says how bland it was, although, to the composer's credit, at least it didn't distract or take away from the films beauty and storyline.

 Acting: 8/10
Anjolina Jolie really made the character come to life. Her voice acting was probably the best she's ever done, but the real treat was her facial expressions which conveyed her emotions and character so well she wouldn't have to say much (if anything at all). Every time You'd get a close up of her you knew you were in for a treat. You can just imagine exactly what she was thinking in the moment. She was so alluring and easy to empathize with I totally fell in love with the character. Maleficent pretty much Is the show, so the other actors aren't of much significance which is a good thing because the other actors were subpar. Other reviewers were critical of the actress selection for Aurora because she was homely and plain. You need to remember this is a different story than the original. Aurora plays a vastly different role in this version. Viewed from this light the actress selection was perfect.

Dialog 5/10
Maleficent has some good lines but really there was no really powerful or emotionally charged dialog. Its really bare bones and superficial (almost if it was rushed or cut). It gets the plot line along but little else.

Plot: 9/10
I'm going to give a short spoiler free description here, but you can read my opinions on the ending HERE. (<--click link to read)

 I love antagonists with dynamic personalities and maleficent clearly fits this bill. You get much more of the back story in this tale to show who Maleficent really is, and what her motivations are. You'll find yourself cursing her at some points and cheering for her at others (and maybe even crying for her). This is a much better story from the original, but it does steal/borrow from other famous movies/books especially the ending. I could tell how the movie was going to end about halfway into the movie (I'm betting the average person could do the same) but that doesn't ruin the tension of the story because it makes you REALLY want to see that ending happen.

Definitely worth watching(more than once) for children and adults who don't mind a romantic fairy tale.

Maleficent review Part 2: The Spoilers!

You first get the sense that the story is going a different direction by the way maleficent is portrayed as a child. Its clear that the writer wants you to like her, or at least sympathize with her on some level. I was very touched by how emotional her scream was when she was betrayed by Stephan.   She was horrified and heartbroken at the same time. After this you could see bitterness sinking into her when she realized that love wasn't real at all. She lost her innocence along with her wings.

But the real twist was to see her transform into a good character again. You could see this start to happen when she fed Aurora as an infant.  What she first took to be just pity for the child turned into love. I think it captured her before she was aware it was happening. near the end you could see her regret especially when she ambiguously tells Aurora that she can't protect her from "the evil in the world"

I just kept thinking: how can you not like this character? All good stories have a hero or heroine with hamartia ( a tragic flaw) which leads to their downfall and this tale was no different. At first I thought it was the makings of a Taylor Swift song when I realized that her downfall was caused by a man who broke her heart, but then I remembered that my lowest low came after a tragic heartbreak as well.

Stephan was arguably the REAL bad guy of the story, but unlike  maleficent he was quite static and superficial. We never know how he goes from being in love with her to becoming obsessed with money and power.  Whats worse is he shows no sign of guilt or regret. This makes him easier to hate I suppose but it also makes him a rather bland and uninteresting character that I couldn't really buy into.

There was one plot hole that really bothered me. If Maleficent could rebond with her wings, why didn't she ask for them back when she had Stephan on his knees begging for mercy? This couldn't just be an oversight.  I'm betting there was scenes that were cut out that explained this.

Finally I'd like to say that I liked the ending a lot (even though I saw it coming)
I loved that they reminded the audience that the prince had only met her once and thus couldn't be her true love. Its great to see a story revolving about a mother daughter relationship (which is basically Maleficent is to Aurora).  I couldn't help but see a resemblance to the ending of "Frozen". The idea for the ending may very well have been stolen from Frozen".  So while I was a bit bummed by the lack of originality of the ending, i found it satisfying and entertaining nonetheless.