Roth Films, Walt Disney Pictures, US
UK Release: 28th May 2014
Director Robert Stromberg
Producer Joe Roth, Scott Michael Murray
Screenwriter Linda Woolverton
Cinematographer Dean Semler
Cast Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley
Maleficent has surprisingly picked up a crate full of cash at the box office, which left me pondering over what could be so charming about this new canon from the Disney franchise. I duly found the answer: Angelina Jolie. Hollywood’s charming humanitarian and hard-boiled star plays out her role as Maleficent with a magical allure and an offbeat stern wit that at least kept me enrolled up to the credits. You could be blunt and suggest that her strut through the forest with great posture and seductive standpoint (good or evil) for anything in her path could be the foundations of the allure.
It is the good and evil dichotomy that is actually rather interesting here; Maleficent is a character we want to see pull-through (win, be happy, whatever you want to call it), but she is fundamentally a dark image with inequitable manners. On the other side of the fantasyland, along with those humans, lives the new King, Stefan (Sharlto Copley), who was once a great childhood friend of Maleficent. He is to, at first, presented in great sunshine, as a sweet young boy who wishes to transcend the lands like Maleficent with her great fierce wings that, by the way, have a pulse of their own. How childhood can be deceiving and what nasty swine some people (finger pointed at Stefan) can live to become.
Other than Maleficent herself, minor charms come from the three fairies (the beguiling imagery of fairy bodies animated to real human heads), the light sentimental touches from Aurora (Elle Fanning) and the simple-minded creatures she plays games with growing up and the respectively impressive and clear-cut visual effects from Robert Stromberg’s team (this is Stromberg’s directorial debut but he has impressive credentials as a production designer – Avatar – and a visual effects designer – The Hunger Games). A climatic scene is particularly enthralling, though I couldn’t help pondering what a 7 year old with her young mother might have been picturing from the latter; a few nights of the sweats to say the least. Stromberg introduces some titanic earth-crunching creatures (much like Darren Aronofsky’s rock monsters in Noah) to give some enlightenment to the otherwise trivial battle scenes at the edge of the forest. However, Aronofsky’s monster figures where central to the plot, whereas Stromberg seems to be fostering his craft and upping the ante.
Their were smiles and laughs from all ages across the auditorium, the film has certainly hit a mark, but without Disney and its basis of The Sleeping Beauty rubbing its back I doubt this film would have any energy at the box office. It is still a fairytale and it, thus, carries the notions of ideological life, but it got mixed up along the way with trying to be unique and scary and/or funny and/or introduce whatever lines of dialogue and pictures it can utilise in order to be bring in the mass audiences. It will nudge you in a couple of places and it will trudge along its ninety-seven minute path at a very steady pace; you will be inclined to think it was an okay movie experience.
Watch the trailer below: