|UK Release Date:||30th May 2014|
|Reviewed:||2nd June 2014|
At last! A baby screening Baby Shark and I were actually excited about going to rather than approaching the cinema with heavy heart and we weren't disappointed. Maleficent is a fun, fresh take on an age old fairy tale putting a female lead very much the mistress of her own destiny. There’s no knight in shining armour here and Disney films, and young ladies, are the better off for it.
The beautiful young fairy Maleficent lives an enchanted life in the moors with all the mythical creatures you could shake a stick at and tree people too. It is a time where the mythical and the human elements in the world do not sit peacefully together. One day she encounters a human boy, Stefan, and her life is changed forever. For a while it seems humans and fairies may be able to overcome their differences but then the greed of man starts to take over and Stefan and Maleficent are separated. She think she will never see her beloved again until his ruthless ambition makes him come back to the moor – to kill her. He can't go through with it but he takes something far far worse from her, and in doing so alters their destinies evermore.
Inspired by both the classic story by Charles Perrault La Belle au bois dormant and of course the much loved Disney classic animated film. The difference being that in Maleficent man is the problem, not the solution. The opening scenes of Jolie’s Maleficent swooping and soaring across landscapes are so fun and made one think when was the last time I saw a female character like this? Strong but with weakness, beautiful but prone to ugliness, one to aspire to be like but also to learn from. A real three dimensional female character with strengths and weaknesses. In a Disney fantasy. It made me cry with happiness but then I haven’t had any sleep for three months so I sometimes cry at Hollyoaks. Anyway that's besides the point, it is absolutely wonderful that this character, and indeed this film, is out in the world for young women to view. Watching it with my baby daughter I felt excited at watching it again with her in a few years.
Maleficent is the Angelina Jolie show. It’s easy to forget what a formidable presence Jolie is as she’s not graced our screens in a lead role for a while. She is magical as Maleficent. I even liked her English accent (some have slated it) but then I just liked everything about her in this role. I mean, who wouldn’t want to play Maleficent – it looks so FUN! There isn’t another current movie star that could have pulled off the mixture of sinister and frivolity that Jolie does. She’s such a great character and Jolie embodies her with the power of an old-fashioned movie star. Swap the enchanted forest for a bar in Casablanca and it would be fine (although she’d be a bit overdressed).
There are some other actors in the film other than Jolie so I suppose I should mention them. Sharlto Copley (District 9) is awkward as Stefan, a more charming actor would have been preferred. It’s hard to buy the lovely Maleficent falling for him and we here at BS Towers know for a fact there was definitely no love lost between him and Angelina on set. The second best thing in the film is Sam Riley as crow/man Diaval, adding some needed weight and humour and he and Jolie have lovely chemistry, their scenes are some of the best in the film. Isabelle Malloy who plays the young Maleficent is a standout, one to watch and of course young Vivienne Jolie Pitt makes her super cute début with Mommy. Bless. Elle Fanning is sweet and lovely as Aurora but she doesn't really get to do much other than smile and look at things in wonderment, like someone taking LSD for the first time.
If one starts dissecting the script too much there are a lot of holes and it’s really rather thin in places. Penned by Linda Woolverton who also wrote Tim Burton's mega gazillion grossing Alice In Wonderland, it’s a script that ultimately is lacking and not delivering as it should have. Particularly the time spent with the fairies who are tasked with guarding Aurora is weak and a downright waste of the-most definitely not- inconsiderable talents of Juno Temple, Lesley Manville and Imelda Staunton. Robert Stromborg does a competent job especially considering this is his directorial debut but the script and some mis-casting let him down. DOP Dean Semler should also get a mention as the film looks great. Anna B Shepherd (A Jolie / Pitt favourite) has done a sterling job at creating iconic and breath-taking costumes that didn’t over shadow but enhance. I definitely want to start dressing like Maleficent. Only on Wednesdays though.
To be honest, the film really only truly sparkles when we are in the presence of Dame Jolie, but she is on screen so much (Stromberg got that right) that it's OK. Maleficent is flawed but it is great fun and held together by a simply stellar central performance. It’s sad that it even needs to be congratulated for giving us three dimensional and interesting female characters, it should just be commonplace; but it isn’t. So, for now, well done Jolie et al, I for one am delighted a film like Maleficent is in the world.
Check out the trailer here.