By Justin Morales (Bronx, NY)
Everyone knows the story of Sleepy Beauty which was turned into a film in 1959. It’s been 55 years since the 1959 film and we have yet to learn more about who Maleficent is, but all that has changed with Robert Stromberg’s Maleficent. In Maleficent, Princess Aurora is cursed by the evil witch Maleficent, who declares that before Aurora reaches her 16th birthday she will die by pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning-wheel. The curse was later altered so that Aurora would be able to wake from her curse if she receives a kiss from her one true love. Although this is Stromberg’s first directorial debut, he is no stranger to the film business having already being nominated for THREE Oscars and winning two of those nominations. He won in 2010 and 2011 for Best Achievement in Art Direction for Alice in Wonderland and Avatar, with 2004 being the only time he hasn’t taken home the hardware when he was nominated for Best Visual Effects for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. So there is one thing we can expect from Maleficent and that is that it will be a visual masterpiece. But the question is, can Stromberg deliver far more than just visuals with a well-known actress such as Angelina Jolie playing the infamous villain?
As a young girl, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) possessed radiant beauty and a pure heart and lived amongst the other fairies in peace and happiness. Maleficent and her fairy friends had a negative image of humans, until she met and fell in love with one, Stefan (Sharlto Copley). But this love later turned on her once Stefan betrayed her so he can become the next King of his land, turning Maleficent into the Mistress of All Evil. The diabolical transformation begins to take place when the vengeful Maleficent seeks revenge by placing a curse on his infant daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning). The rest of the story you think you might know by watching Sleepy Beauty but that is not the case at all.
Robert Stromberg delivers a visual masterpiece once again. Every single scene is consistent with the visuals and it is by far the highlight of the film. Stromberg and his team are on a roll and I expect his team to get another nomination for Best Achievement in Art Direction. But directing takes a different set of skills and Stromberg has yet to hit that one on the nail. Maleficent had everything going for it that made one assume that this movie would be a huge hit. The trailers were highly promising, a concept that was appealing to all ages and a lead actress that everyone loves. But Disney’s live action re-imagination of Sleepy Beauty fails to live up to this potential.
The film stands at a run time of just 97 minutes and that is the first problem of the film. I’m not one to complain about a short film as Jeff, Who Lives at Home has a run time of only 86 minutes and is one of my favorite films of 2011. But a lot of the scenes in Maleficent could have benefited from it being elongated. For example, a fight scene in the middle of the film was thrown in and poorly introduced and ended in the same fashion. Then when Maleficent is bonding with Aurora throughout the second half of the film, it just feels rushed and rough.
Elle Fanning has shown us in the past that she has what it takes to be a good actress but all her potential and skills were reduced to just smiles and short lines throughout the film. And that was a similar concept with the other supporting characters as they never gave as much as Jolie did. Angelina Jolie on the other hand was beautifully casted for the role. Very few lines aren’t delivered as monologues and even then when she is engaging in dialogue with another character most of time it is a creature of some sort. With all that being said, Jolie was still able to demand all your attention when she was on the screen. Let’s not forget how equally radiant her costumes were.
Overall, I suggest you skip this film when it hits theaters but if you want to take your kids out to see a film then this is the perfect film. Maleficent isn’t as dark as the trailers make it seem like, making it perfect for children but not as entertaining if you were to go with a group of adults. This film will be perfect for your Blu-Ray collection just because the visuals demand to at least be seen in the best format. Stromberg has to work on his directorial skills a tad more but once he polishes them and combines what he can already do with visuals, he can become one of Hollywood’s top directors.
– Angelina Jolie’s screen presence
– Certain scenes feel rushed
– Didn’t live up to expectations
– Not much was given from supporting characters