Written By: Linda Woolverton
Publication Info: Disney 2014
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
It is a rare and beautiful thing when Redheadedgirl’s catnip lines up with my catnip. Redheadedgirl never met a fuschia cover she didn’t love, and fuschia gives me migraines – but when it comes to CGI fairies, we are both so totally there. So here’s a joint, slightly spoilery review of Maleficent from me and Redheadedgirl, with additional notes from my ten-year-old daughter.
Maleficent is the story of Sleeping Beauty told from the point of view of Maleficent, played by Angelina Jolie and some creepy CGI cheekbones. Once upon a time, Maleficent was a sweet young girl with nifty wings and conveniently dead parents (since they named an infant “Maleficent”, I’m thinking they were no big loss). She falls in love with a whiny human who we loathe on sight. She thinks he’s a Loveable Rogue but it is instantly clear that he’s a Shiftless Bastard. He betrays her to become king of the humans, she vows vengance, and the rest of the movie is Angelina Jolie being awesome.
Did Redheadedgirl love it? Yup:
I loved it. I'm unreasonably annoyed that the 3 fairies don't have their names carry over from the animated film (because they obviously WERE and even did the lumpy sad cake from the animated movie) but I loved it. I'm always here for La Jolie bossing shit around.
I know there were some people who were concerned that it would give Maleficent the hero treatment, and they would prefer her to be just an evil fairy for the sake of being evil. I think that the who she is and why she did what she did was a interesting take (and certainly made for a longer movie than “she was a fairy who wasn't invited and that pissed her off so much she took it out on everyone”).
I also know there are people who think that she went off on Stefan and his kingdom because he dumped her and it's just a scorned woman trope. Can I point out that he drugged her and CUT OFF HER WINGS? He had basically dumped her before that, and she was angry, but not like, vengeful. She didn't plan to destroy him until he rape-analogied her.
Also, the four year old Tiny!Aurora (“UP!”) was played by Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, who was the only child they could find who wasn't scared of the Maleficent get up- even out of the other Jolie-Pitt kids. According to an interview, Maddox and Pax were scared shitless. I thought that kid was a little more familiar with La Jolie than I would expect from a random child actor.
I (CarrieS) loved it too:
I've heard a bunch of people say that this movie is not good, empirically speaking, and yet they will buy it and watch it one thousand times. Yeah, me too.
I loved the look and design although it wasn't terribly innovative. But really I loved it because of Angelina's performance. She only goes camp when it's a deliberate attempt to impress other people with how very little fucks she gives – and when she's doing that, you can see real pain and bitterness and yearning in her eyes even as she's all, “Ha ha I'm evil!”. I love it when people commit to a part – and the more outrageous the material, the more I love it when they seize that part and play it as though they've been handed Shakespeare instead of something assembled in a boardroom.
I felt the same way about Elle Fanning. Her part isn't complex, but in some ways it's harder to play. It's really tough to be uncomplicatedly good without being cloying or dull, and I thought she did a great job because she played everything without flirting to the audience. Aurora isn't out to impress anyone with how totes adorbs she is. She just loves the world around her in an honest way. She's completely sincere.
I was hoping she'd get to kick some ass at the end but I was also glad she didn't because when would she have picked up ass kicking skills? She would have been the chick that stands around, hits the bad guy once, and then stands around again. It made more sense for her to provide Maleficent with the weapon she needed (!!!!!!!!!SO SATISFYING!!!!!!) and stay sensibly out of the way.
So – the plot, the script, the performance of King Stefan the drooling whack job, the annoying faeires who were not only goofy but selfish and mean, the rushed ending (Aurora is asleep for what – five minutes?) – all terrible. This movie is riddled with problems. But watching Maleficent do anything, and especially watching Maleficent and Aurora together – made of win. I could watch it all day.
We both loved the themes and the portrayal of women as strong in different ways.
Regarding Stefan and the wings – there was a recurring theme that you can get over physical pain but betrayal by someone you deeply trust is The Worst. This comes up again when Aurora finds out about the curse and it's implied that maybe she pricks her finger on purpose because she's so pissed off. Injury makes you angry – betrayal makes you angry and crazy and self-destructive.
I liked that theme but I felt let down that Stefan and Maleficent never had a confrontative conversation about what happened. It could have been a conversation between him and his wife or him and Aurora, even. Something where he talks about how he couldn't bear to give up the kingship but he couldn't bear to give up Maleficent’s life either, and he ended up ruining both.
One of the recurring themes of fairy tales and mythology is that you can't avoid a curse or prophecy, and everything you do to avoid it will bring it on. Also, not for nothing, I had no idea what part of a spinning wheel was the spindle until I was like, 20. Or really how a spinning wheel worked. I really liked how that came around to bite Maleficent in the ass, as well. (“You're my fairy godmother!” “….what.”)
I agree that La Jolie is a really good actress who can chew the scenery and make you have feelings at the same time. Those eyes. How she can say “I hate you, Beastie” while still making sure the kid didn't fall off a cliff or starve to death.
We did a podcast episode last month on Strong Female Characters, and one of the things I said was that you don't need to kick ass literally to be strong. Aurora was strong in her own way- smart enough to figure out what those wings were and what to do about them, and strong enough to DO it without wibbling.
(I mean, seriously, Stefan. Putting three fairies who have never actually like, dealt with humans or know how to take care of a baby in charge of the kid? Poor life choices.)
And I have also seen complaints that all the men in this movie are either evil, or servants. Gosh, that really sucks, for you, doesn't it? We have 5 major women's roles, and 2.5 major men's roles! I LIKE IT.
Here’s a bonus review from my ten year old daughter, who thinks the terrifying, slathering, growling dire wolf is “adorable”:
I liked the movie. My favorite parts were the part where Maleficent meets Aurora as a toddler, and the part where Aurora is a teenager and she meets Maleficent again and says “You’re my fairy godmother”. I would recommend this move for kids ages nine and up. I think younger kids wouldn’t get it. I also recommend it for adults because it’s an all-ages movie. It wasn’t too scary but it was exciting.
[Carrie: I asked who the hero of the movie was] Probably Maleficent was the hero…or maybe there was no hero! I liked Maleficent because sometime's she's funny, and near the beginning of the movie she was nice, and she was nice again at the end. I felt sorry for her when she lost her wings. I liked the special effects except for Maleficent's cheeks. They were just weird! I would give this movie four stars.
And some random points she made during the movie (we were quite chatty, sorry rest of theater):
1. Huh. Why don't they all talk at once and interrupt her, and then she can't cast the curse? [this was not the only plot hole 10 yr old child noticed, BTW].
2. That black dress would look better if it fit. It's too long – look, it drags all over the floor.
3. It's inappropriate that the bird changes into a guy with no clothes. When he says, “What have you done to my beautiful self”, I'm pretty sure he looks at his private parts.
4. The moral of this movie is don't curse anything cute!