“Hey kids! Do you like Frozen? Of course you do! What about Sleeping Beauty? No? Just your parents? Not computer generated enough for you, is it? Fine. Well, what if we combined the two and added in some CGI just to appease you? You’d love that, wouldn’t you? Your parents might not, but we’ll throw in Angelina Jolie just in case, because your mom likes reading about her in People magazine and your dad likes looking at pictures of her on dark corners of the internet. Throw in a Lana Del Rey tune to really cash in on the gay demographic and we’re set for a blockbuster!”
This is a paraphrased version of what I think went on at Disney during the development of
the Angelina Jolie biopic their latest cash cow Maleficent.
The hype for this movie was astronomical. Early trailers gave us brief glimpses into what we were assuming to be a macabre and eerie romp through the shadow of one of Disney’s “timeless” classics. Each preview released drew everyone in with promises of a menacing atmosphere and a taste of true Disney evil that its animated counterpart merely hinted at for so many years.
Bravo to whoever cut those trailers, because the actual film itself doesn’t deliver on any of that. At all. In the actual movie, we are subjected to a world full of Xbox 360 quality cutscene animations stuffed with creatures that resemble everything we’ve seen in high budget fantasy pictures from the past fifteen years – from Harry Potter to Avatar.
The narrative itself…well, it tries to be empowering, but comes across as ill-thought out. Maleficent is supposed be the anti-heroine here – except she’s not. She’s actually much more cuddly and warm than the iconic Disney villain people of all ages proudly wear on tank tops bought from Wal-Mart. So she’s more of an anti-anti-heroine. Turns out that the “real” Maleficent was actually some cute faerie harpie queen with inexplicably perfect lipstick who spent her childhood flying across sunsets and hanging out with poorly rendered dwarfs all the time. One day, she encountered Stefan, future king of…uh…Sleeping-Beauty-onia, and they had a fling. Later on, he became a total dick, ditched her, only to come back and cut off her wings after he roofies her. Because daddy issues. (Metaphorical much?)
Therefore Maleficent decided to live up to her evil name (who gave that to her, anyway?) by wearing all black and becoming an emo stalker. I guess that’s somewhat liberating, but it comes across as more demeaning than anything else. I mean, instead of being this huge source of raging power, Maleficent squanders her talents away by embodying a psycho-ex stereotype that obsesses over a man rather than a formidable warrior woman role that just crushes him. With her abilities and resources, Maleficent could very well overthrow King Stefan and take back her wings at any time, but instead she settles for facebook stalking him and making silly faces. I get that it’s because she still loves him and she has a heart or whatever, but this totally clashes with what we had previously assumed (and hoped) the iconic character is capable of. A Kill Bill-esque storyline would have been much more satisfying here, in which Maleficent would rise up from being put in such a low position and seek her revenge that may or may not be a little bit bloody.
Instead, we’re treated to a cartoony yet conflicted storyline that has Maleficent become Princess Aurora’s fairy godmother. Yes, you read that correctly. After cursing the “little beastie” with the classic and slightly odd spinning wheel finger pricking spell, Maleficent gets far too attached to the Not-quite-sleepy-yet Beauty and begins obsessively watching her instead – all the way up to when she turns sixteen. Princess Aurora (who has very thick eyebrows by the way) eventually develops a relationship with the “evil” queen and her man slave that can turn into a crow (don’t ask). They even hang out in the Avatar like faerieland, giggling and throwing mud at each other from time to time. Meanwhile, a war brews between Maleficent and King Stefan, but who cares about that, we want cuddles! And really, really high cheekbones. Angelina Jolie’s cheekbones get bigger and bigger in every scene. I’m not joking. (They’re the true stars of the movie.)
Seeing as how I’ve already spoiled enough as it is, I won’t give away the ending. However, I will say that it is strikingly similar to that of Frozen. Was this originally part of the script or was this due to the success of that particular not-Pixar movie? I’m not quite sure. It’s definitely a chicken-or-the-egg scenario. Regardless, if you were going into Maleficent expecting a “Lord of the Rings for drag queens” epic as the previews suggested, you’ll either be disappointed or somewhat bemused.