Other Media Review

Maleficent: A Joint Movie Review by CarrieS and Red Headed Girl

B

Title: Maleficent
Written By: Linda Woolverton
Publication Info: Disney 2014
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Maleficent - Angelina JolieIt 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.

Me (Carrie): 

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.

Redheadedgirl:

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!


This movie is in theatres now. You can check your local listings at Fandango or Moviefone (US). 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Amanda says:

    I actually saw this last night with some friends and I really liked it. I mean, I don’t mind looking at Angelina Jolie’s face for two hours. And hot damn, those silhouettes!

  2. 2
    jimthered says:

    I liked the movie a good deal (spoiler-free review: http://thearmchaircritic.blogspot.com/2014/05/maleficent.html  While I thought Aurora and Stefan were a bit one-dimensional (she’s too perfect, he’s too boo! hiss!), Angelina Jolie was t’riffic as the protector-turned-villain-turned-hero.  I also liked the fact that, like FROZEN, this movie doesn’t have a cute guy be the answer to everything.  I also found it interesting that Aurora’s presence through the years helped melt Maleficent’s heart, while her absence made Stefan grow more wicked.  (Remember, early in the movie he was willing to beg—in front of all his nobles and guests—to save his daughter; but after she’s been gone for ages, he becomes paranoid and obsessed with vengeance, neglecting everything else.)

  3. 3
    jimthered says:

    Oh, and what is certainly not coincidental timing, in June Wicked Pictures will be releasing SLEEPING BEAUTY XXX: AN AXEL BRAUN PARODY, the second in their fairy tale series.  The SFW trailer is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2oHF2swRQY and I’d say it should be worth seeing just for Stormy Daniels as Maleficent.

  4. 4
    laj says:

    I am very excited to see Maleficent! I have a b-day date to see it with my son next week. It is playing at one of the big old Art Deco theatres in L.A.

    I love to watch Angelina Jolie, she’s the Catherine Deneuve of our time. So beautiful and talented. A couple of years ago I saw her in a coffee shop in West Hollywood. When she walk in the place went so quiet you could hear a pin drop…..she bought two coffees then got on the back on a motorcycle and speed away. Even in L.A. the place went wild just after she left. She.Is.A.Movie.Star.

  5. 5
    chacha1 says:

    I probably won’t get to see this in the theater, but definitely want to see it.  I like Angelina in just about anything, but especially when riding the ragged edge of camp (e.g. “Wanted,” “Salt,” “Lara Croft”).

    Saw the original Disney Sleeping Beauty not too long ago (decided it was time to pass those Disney movies on to the people in my family who have little kids) and boy, was Aurora boring.  Sounds like this movie does more with/for her.

  6. 6
    Shannon says:

    I saw this with two older women.  They hated nearly every minute where as I thoroughly enjoyed it because of Maleficent does go from being nice-deluded-angry-slowly loving-and then kicking ass.  (Note to self do not take anyone over 70 to action-packed movies again this summer.)  There were plot holes and some CGI scenes that dragged on a little saying notice this SPECIAL EFFECT, no really NOTICE THIS SPECIAL EFFECT.  That said, I loved the transformation to a fire-breathing dragon.  The movie has enough humor to balance the (melo)drama.  As for lack of character development, I just noted this was a fairytale and let it all just wash over me.  Lazy, I know.

    The theme that I took from this was about modern rage:  If you act out of rage, a lot of people are affected by your actions. Even when you want to reverse the curse, it’s a little too late.

  7. 7
    CarrieS says:

    @Shannon – I hadn’t thought of it that way but it really is the magic version of “The Internet is Forever”!

  8. 8
    Fahrenheit says:

    @Shannon

    Agree. The rage theme gives me a bit of Disneyfied Fatal Attraction vibe…. Must be the whole woman-scorned trope.

  9. 9
    jimthered says:

    The rage theme gives me a bit of Disneyfied Fatal Attraction vibe…. Must be the whole woman-scorned trope.

    In fairness, in MALEFICENT (mild spoiler, about 1/4 through the movie) it’s not so much woman-scorned as woman-mutilated.  What set her off was Stefan, who Maleficent thought loves her, drugging her and cutting off her wings (which she seemed (justly) proud of in every scene before that in the movie.  One of the most painful parts of the movie for me was seeing her grief when she realizes what happened to her and how she was literally crippled.  (The scary-looking scepter she wields in the original?  Here it was summoned just to help her walk after the mutilation.)  So it’s a lot more than just her being scorned: It’s about revenge on the man who betrayed her and stole what might have been her most valued part of herself.

  10. 10
    Kael says:

    As a vaguely random aside, those cheekbones aren’t CGI, but prosthetics.

  11. 11
    Fahrenheit says:

    So it’s a lot more than just her being scorned: It’s about revenge on the man who betrayed her and stole what might have been her most valued part of herself.

    Ah, I see now what they mean about interesting take on the villain. Couldn’t condone her actions and means, but there’s a powerful reason behind it.

    Did Stefan look like he enjoyed it though? The cutting off of the wings, I mean? Forgive me if the next questions are stupid, and this is just purely for discussion, but should she rather be killed than have her wings cut off? Between murder and mutilation, I thought Stefan had to do that so that everyone would think she’s dead and wouldn’t bother to search for her anymore? Not agreeing with his actions too, but it seemed like he was torn between Maleficent, and his duty to the kingdom and loyalty to the king?

  12. 12
    Fahrenheit says:

    Forgot to mention I’ve not seen the movie yet. lol. But I’m the type to want to hear/read spoilers

  13. 13
    CarrieS says:

    @Farenheit – I honestly thought they’d portray Stefan’s action as a complex, morally tortured one – they had built in the set up, after all.  But it ends up being portrayed quite simply as ambition.  The crown goes to whoever kills her, he wants to be king, he does the deed while she’s drugged because he can’t bring himself to kill her, and he takes the crown.  So many lost character opportunities there.

  14. 14
    S says:

    Am I the only one who totally wanted to see Aurora end up with the crow? While I’m glad they didn’t go the prince route, (and glad he was self aware enough to say “are you sure? we’ve met like, once”) I felt like the curse solution they chose fit the current most popular “twisted” trope out there too exactly, it’s been done to death in the last few years!

  15. 15
    redheadedgirl says:

    I think the Crow shipped Aurora and Phillip pretty solidly, for one, and while Phillip’s kiss wasn’t True Love, the friend I saw the movie with was going “THE CROW THE CROW” and I was going “IT’S MOMMY LOVE IT IS KISS THE BEASTIE.”

  16. 16
    jimthered says:

    I thought the Crow *might* have been the true love, but considering he saw and knew Aurora from almost the day she was born, that would have been a little bit creepy.

  17. 17
    Dee Carney says:

    I saw the movie this weekend and while I didn’t love it, I did like it. And sorry to the adults who wrote this review, I think my favorite parts of this review came from the ten year old. Straight to the point. lol

    @s—my 53 year old boyfriend was *certain* that the crow would be the true love too and was disappointed when he wasn’t. lol

  18. 18
    Fahrenheit says:

    @CarrieS

    Thank you.

    I now understand why some reviews were pretty harsh. Compared to theirs, this one is actually pretty kind.

    I’ve read that Maleficent was the only one that truly shone in the movie because all the other characters had cardboard personalities and the story was clunky and full of plot holes. I guess there were some lost opportunities. But then again, there were apparently some problems behind the scenes. Maybe that’s why the end product finished like that?

  19. 19

    WARNING: SPOILER FILLED COMMENT!!

    S: I also thought the Crow might end up being Aurora’s TL, even though he was older (but magically so!). He clearly cared about her and knew her well. Philip only knew her for six flippin’ minutes.

    Linked to that, I’m so glad that they didn’t have the prince be the magic kisser, and I thought the movie did well in making him a more aware dude who was like “She’s asleep. It wouldn’t be right to kiss a sleeping girl.” YOU GO, PHIL!!!! Damn right you should ask first!! (I actually enjoyed how the pixies had to bully him into it. “This is a special case! It’s to end a curse, damn it! Kiss her!” Um, that’s a paraphrase.)

    In general, I wasn’t enchanted by the movie, but I enjoyed nearly all of it. While watching, I caught myself thinking “this is SO much better that Snow White and the Huntsman was.” That movie was a hot mess.

  20. 20
    garlicknitter says:

    Saw it.  Loved it.  I want to go live in the Moors – even if I have to camp to live there.  (I hate camping.)  Even when Maleficent was in the depths of her rage and bitterness and the Moors got kind of creepy, they were so beautiful.

    I know this movie is about a lot more than that, and I’m with Carrie and Redheadedgirl in their analyses, but what struck me most was all the beautiful different scenes of the Moors.

  21. 21
    Bridget R. says:

    I saw the movie and LOVED it.

    A plot hole that bugged me—what about the scene where she revokes the curse?  Why does the curse still happen?

  22. 22
    redheadedgirl says:

    Maleficent couldn’t revoke it because when she made it, she included a “no power on earth can stop this from happening” clause.  She is a power on earth, so she basically screwed herself. 

    Always have a lawyer read over your curses, just to be sure.

    (When she tried to revoke it, the green coming out of Aurora’s body was the manifestation of the curse, and it went back in instead of dissipating.)

  23. 23
    Merm8fan says:

    Saw it today and enjoyed it – at least once baby Aurora arrived. The start was a bit ‘meh’ IMO. However, I could have watched scenes between Maleficent and Aurora for hours. When she hissed through the window was pure magic for me.

    Stefan was ridiculous. Plus, his mild accent as a boy definitely got more Scottish/Dutch Afrikaans/? the older and crazier he got. Bothered me more than any other silly part of the movie – and there was definitely a need for suspension of disbelief in this one. It’s a fairytale!

    Though I roll my eyes at Angelina Jolie’s real world bizarreness, I genuinely like her work, even against popular opinion (i.e. – Salt). She was fantastic as Maleficent. So much inflection in a simple ‘hmm’ (or however you describe the sound after Aurora says she won’t be afraid to see her). Then, there are the expressions with no words spoken… I got goosebumps, the awesome kind.

    This is one I will likely see again before it leaves the theaters, and I’ll definitely be buying the DVD! (Even though Phillip had girly hair.)

  24. 24
    DDaiboa says:

    Have yet to see, but I’ve been told it’s a great movie. The wing-tearing scene looks like one of the pivotal moments of the movie. And if what I heard is true, that’s a metaphor for violation of women. That’s an interesting take.

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