Weird thing watching this film, it seemed like the blu-ray player was on fast-forward or something,or somehow skipping chapters. It was just, well, odd. Its a nice film and everything but, well, it seemed edited down to within an inch of its life as if in some mad drive to get it down to as near to 90 mins as possible. Unfortunately it has a result that the film lacks much substance, or the subtext that it perhaps would otherwise have.There is a good film here, but also one that might have been great. As the narrative moves forward years race by, characters come and go and never return (Sleeping Beauty’s mother is woefully treated in particular) and before you know it, the film is over, suffering because of the films alarming brevity. Its all very pretty but rather vacuous (hmm, something that could be said of so much Hollywood product).
It certainly has great credentials. Angelina Jolie in superb scenery-chewing form as the titular character in a striking make-up design created by Rick Baker, no less. A visual style and photography that is never less than breathtakingly beautiful, with a sublime score by James Newton Howard that harkens back to the pastoral beauty of Debussy and Jerry Goldsmith’s classic score for the similarly-themed Legend. It has such a lot going for it but ultimately stumbles. A lack of faith on Disney’s part, perhaps? There is certainly all the signs of a troubled production and plenty of second-guessing in post.
Perhaps its the script. As the title would suggest, the film is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty but from the perspective of the evil Maleficent. Or not so evil in this case, as again we bear witness to the modern world’s very PC-friendly revisonist view that bad people aren’t really evil, but rather misunderstood and victims of circumstance themselves. They’ll be telling me that Darth Vader is really a Good Guy deep down next, wait- oh yeah, they even turned that black-clad harbinger of Evil of The Empire Strikes Back into a good guy -with mother issues, no less- too. Agh.
So Maleficent is hardly anything new there. The problem with this film though is that while it does an acceptable turn at explaining her fall from sweet flying fairy into dark vengeful witch, it lessens the impact by skimping on the surrounding characters, particularly short-changing Stefan, the cad who steals her heart -and eventually her wings in his drive for power and glory, Stefan is left a simple two-dimensional character when the script could have given him some depth and pathos as he realises he left behind what he really wanted in favour of a kingdom and life that left him unfulfilled. They are two childhood friends and later lovers whose fates are entwined forever, their romance turning to bitter betrayal- there is plenty to chew on, particularly when they meet again over the years after. They share a history that is pretty much mulched into a simplistic black and white tale when it should have perhaps been one of regret and what might have been. The funny thing is, the seeds of such complexities and depth are clearly there, its as if they were filmed but just that they are missing in this edit leaving the film rather disjointed.
But fairytales are just for kids, right? We don’t need any complexities and depth of character in a film that is meant to sell toys or amusement park rides something. I feel a dark trembling in the Force, kiddies, Disney even now producing Star Wars 7...