Sunday, June 8, 2014

Maleficent - Movie Review

Society would have us all believe that every woman grew up dreaming of being a princess, Well, I for one, did not. As the youngest of eight children, five of which were boys, and with my sisters seven and eleven years older then me, I grew up, you guessed it, as a tomboy. So why is it then that even I loved Disney's animated film "Sleeping Beauty"? First off, I was raised to appreciate fine art and beautiful music by my parents and my own insatiable hunger for enlightenment. Naturally the advanced artistry in "Sleeping Beauty's" every frame caught my young eye and captured my attention. Borrowing from the ballet version of the tale and using Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's magnificent music for the score only heightened the intensity of the movie's beauty. Yet even the story makes it stand out from other princess tales. Although "Snow White" also features an evil female villain for some reason Maleficent with her iron-clad grudge always seemed more intriguing then the evil Queen obsessed with beauty. And let's not forget the fire-breathing dragon! Honestly how many of the old fairy tales have dragons? Even though the animated film came out in 1959, it has remained a huge favorite for fairy tale lovers.

Now fast forward 55 years to the year 2014. Disney releases their new spin on their old tale with a live action film called "Maleficent". At first I was just ecstatic that my favorite fairy tale Witch was being played by my favorite actress Angelina Jolie! As the trailers kept rolling out I got even more excited because it seemed the film would center more on Maleficent's perspective of things and might give us a whole new angle to the classic story. When the movie came out May 31st I had to go see it opening day. I usually wait a while till movies go to the dollar theater or red box, but no way could I wait another day to see this one! 

Brief synopsis: A human kingdom resides on the border of a magical one called The Moors. The two kingdoms are not friendly but stay to themselves. Until a young boy named Stefan sneaks into The Moors and tries to steal something valuable to improve his meager existence. Instead he meets Maleficent the strongest of all the Fairies who makes him return his stole trinket and sends him safely home. However, when he leaves he takes with him Maleficent's heart. They grow up and while he comes to visit Maleficent from time to time Stefan's ambitions lead him to the palace and make him the trusted servant to the king. When the greedy king decides to go to battle against The Moors he finds Maleficent and an army of tree warriors in his way. His altercation with the fully grown Maleficent leaves the king at death's door. When the king announces that he will give his throne to the man who avenges him and slays the Fairy, Maleficent, Stefan is faced with a difficult choice. Suddenly his childhood friend and first love is the only thing standing in the way of his ultimate dream, unlimited wealth and power. 

I won't give anything else away if you haven't seen it but let's just say that in this version of the tale Maleficent has plenty of reason to hold a grudge. You almost sympathize with her when Aurora is born and she crashes the party to get her own revenge. As The princess grows up under the care of three very poor Fairy caretakers, Maleficent is there all along just biding her time. But whilst Aurora's guardians are a bit flighty, Maleficent finds herself having to step in from time to time to keep the little "Beasty" alive. At least long enough for her prophecy to be fulfilled. However, by the end of the movie everything seems to change and the good guy is the villain and the villain the real hero.

For me this was the most satisfying movie going experience I've had in a long time. Too often then not the trailer for a film will be better then the film itself leaving me feeling let down and a little lied to. Trust me Maleficent does not disappoint. It is almost as beautiful as the animated classic with ten times the emotional impact and richness in plot. Angelina was Magnificent as Maleficent. The rest of the cast played their parts well. One of my favorite twists on the original tale is Maleficent's faithful crow companion Diaval. In the film he is a bird she saves and then enlists to serve her. When she wants to communicate with him she changes him into a man. At other times she changes him into a dog and even a dragon! I loved the banter and the relationship between the two of them as the story unfolds. He became one of my favorite characters.  Elle Fanning, who is Dakota Fanning's little, yet taller, sister played princess Aurora. She did a fine job portraying the innocence and sweetness of the character but in my opinion she is not a great beauty. Perhaps an equally charming but more stunning actress should have been cast in this role. Honestly that is my only complaint. The visual effects were breath taking, the writing and acting endearing, and the ending inspiring. 

I give "Maleficent" a solid five star rating. I enjoyed it so much I might just go back and see it in theaters again. When the movie comes out on DVD I'll be the first to rush out and buy a copy.  

Now go forth and see it for yourselves. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. See you next time.

R.J. Craddock