Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Maleficent review

This has been an extraordinarily strong and diverse summer for movies. We've had a great film in just about every genre. There have been two great action flicks (Edge of Tomorrow and X-Men: Days of Future Past), a good romance movie (The Fault in Our Stars), and three raucous comedies (Neighbors, A Million Ways to Die in the West and 22 Jump Street). However, we were bound to go on a cold streak eventually and I believe that we have now hit that streak. How to Train Your Dragon 2 was incredibly disappointing and now I finally got around to seeing Maleficent, which takes the cake as the worst movie of the summer. Outside of a few moments of genuine, heartfelt emotion, Maleficent is an absolute mess. There's no entertainment to be had here. It's just a painful movie to sit through.

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a young, beautiful fairy with a sunny outlook on life. She lives in the Moors with magical creatures and all sorts of other fairies. One day, she meets Stefan, a young boy who is caught stealing from the diamond river or whatever. The two become friends and develop a bond. However, the older Stefan (played by Sharlto Copley) wants to be king in the future and then betrays Maleficent in a nasty way. In return, Maleficent curses Stefan's child and then wanders off into the forest. Stefan sends his daughter, Aurora, off into the woods for protection and she grows up there with the help of three fairies (Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville). Aurora grows up (she is then played by Elle Fanning) and she meets Maleficent. The two bond and Maleficent must decide if she will right her wrongs or stay dark and heartless forever.

Maleficent is bad from the get-go and it almost never stops being bad, with the exception of a scene or two. The CGI is well-done at times, but also obviously fake at other times, making for an almost laughable movie experience. There's no edginess to the script, which is mostly bland and substance-less. And worst of all, Angelina Jolie is really terrible, with the exception of one very good, well-done scene. Almost everything with her performance is so overdone and she's trying so hard that it just ends up being ridiculous and laughable. This movie is just an all-around snooze-fest.

The film begins with narration and the narration continues throughout. Now, I've got nothing against voice-over and narration, but there's a point where it just needs to stop. The narration was fine for setting up the story, but after that, it's just in place to explain the points of the plot to us. It irked me from the beginning and just gets worse as the movie goes on.

When I was watching Maleficent, it felt like a two hour movie, which is bad since it's only an hour and forty minutes. However, the film still feels too short. It takes five minutes for Maleficent to decide that she shouldn't have gotten so mad and cursed Aurora only after she hangs out with the kid for a day. Seriously? Their relationship is without a doubt one of the most believable and realistic parts in the whole overcooked affair, but it still feels underdeveloped. In fact, everything feels underdeveloped. You're watching these characters and nothing is understood about them. They are just up on the screen and the magic voice in the background is telling you little bits and pieces about them. It's ridiculous.

The performances in this movie are either blandly forgettable or flat-out bad. Elle Fanning (Super 8, Somewhere) is a great young actress, but all she has to do is act happy and pretend to be dead. There's really not much to her performance. Sharlto Copley does the same shtick that he's done since District 9, which is talk with a South African accent and act weird. Sam Riley plays Maleficent's useless bird assistant, but actually infuses a little bit of humor and charm into the movie. Not a bad performance from Riley.

Angelina Jolie is undoubtedly the star of this movie and the whole thing rests on her soldiers. And while she has her moments of greatness, the performance is so melodramatic and annoying for most of the runtime. I think that Jolie believed she was playing a much weightier role than she is and it shows in the performance. It's so over-dramatic and is pretty much the type of performance you'd expect from a bad Shakespeare actor. However, she does have a few moments. Any time that humor is injected into the film, it sparks to life for a moment, and Jolie handles those moments well. Also, she has a great, emotional scene with Elle Fanning towards the end which moved me despite the fact that I didn't care about any of the characters.

The script doesn't do much to help the movie either. It's so devoid of any sense of fun and the dialogue is cringe-worthy at times. Characters are thrown in for no apparent reason at idiotic times and do nothing to advance the plot. Take Prince Philip (Brenton Thwaites) for example. He's in there for one or two scenes and then pops back up at the end. It's a screenplay that never decides what it wants to do and the movie ends up playing like a giant montage. With the constant narration and the fact that no scene lasts longer than a minute or two, it's hard to get across too much of a cohesive story.

The technical aspects are both good and bad. The CGI is stunning at times and the landscapes are brilliant. However, the CGI can often look so obviously fake that it distracts from the movie and makes this film look worse than it already is. The visual effects team did a decent job, but the mistakes were apparent.

Maleficent is just not a good movie. Every once in a while, there's a good scene, which only made me more mad because I know that this could have been an interesting flick. But at this point, it's an underdeveloped, over-done mess. We've seen a lot of good ones this summer and I really was not surprised that this movie was awful. It just looked terrible from the beginning. Some may complain that it messes with the story too much or that it's a weird take on a classic, but I would just say that it's a bad movie. There's nothing else you really can say to that. There are just very few redeemable factors to this movie. Hopefully Disney can do a better job with their next revisionist fairy tale, Cinderella, which comes out next year. For now, we just have Maleficent. Great.

THE FINAL GRADE:  D                                               (4.3/10)


  1. Going to see this because my hubby wants too. Reading this review didn't really quell my indifference.

  2. Despite its pitfalls, Maleficent entertains because of Jolie, who holds the wavering threads of Stromberg's spinning wheel together with aplomb.