Friday night, I rolled out to the movie theater with the roommate to go catch a 3-D IMAX (all the regular shows were sold out) of Maleficent. We’d both been waiting for the movie to drop in theaters since the trailer was first released. Myself out of interest to see what they’d do by giving Maleficent the Wicked treatment, and he for Angelina Jolie. I’m not a film enthusiast or student by any means, so my fully observations on the movie are purely informal reactionary opinion.
Angelina Jolie sells the movie, no question. By the end of the first 10 minutes of the movie when the initial world and plot are established the nature of the story and the events that will follow become immediately obvious, especially with the familiarity with the source material and the scenes shown in promotional clips — our exact reaction to the scenario was, “Ah, so it’s like that…”,
Movie trailers and internet memes leading up to the films release indicate that everyone’s clued in on the fact that Maleficent having wings and somehow losing them was going to be a point of exploration in the film. It’s actually the movie’s strongest moment. After being drugged to sleep by her childhood sweetheart, she comes to and finds that her beloved wings were amputated in her slumber. And Angie depicts that sudden realization of loss, pain, and violation with such unnervingly precise believability that it becomes so uncomfortable to watch that I actually forgot what movie I was watching and who it was made by. There are some really obvious correlations that established movie reviewers have been all to happy to call attention to. Jolie’s recent experience with her double mastectomy channeling into her performance, and the obvious analog for that plot device serves as. However, if you abstract the scene enough, the violation of trust and person being witnessed are not exclusive to female rape victims. I’m an adult male who’s never experienced a violent sexual abuse, but that didn’t stop the scene from strongly resonating with me. She drifts off to sleep in the trust and comfort of the world and people around here, only to wake and suddenly find her world turned upside down. Robbed of her strengths, betrayed by a close trusted one, left abandoned and drowning in despair with no one to fall back on but herself, in the process growing hardened, hateful, and vengeful. As demonstrated in the movie, these are traumas can happen without the experience of sexual assault.
Though that scene may be Angelina’s strongest moment in the film, her performance carries it all the way to completion. The visual effect eye candy is set to max, but most of the time I wasn’t paying attention to anything that wasn’t Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. The pacing and editing are very brisk and stilted — I’ve read this was the director’s first time in the chair, serving in the past mostly as a visual effects director, and it definitely shows. All the whimsy in the movie that would normally exude charm in a Disney production felt forced and fell flat. With all the liberty taken with magic and armies, everything that happens feels like it does because something has to, not because the story demands it to. In the final stride when it overlaps with the Sleeping Beauty narrative we’re all familiar with, the reworked story line and its underdeveloped nature lack a real impact due to a complete disregard for the idea of consequence. It’s Disney, so things still all manage to work out for the happy and better.
Still, I very much enjoyed watching the movie. Angelina Jolie’s performance never falters and makes up for all the movie’s other shortcomings. More than that, I like the direction that Disney’s storytelling is heading lately. They’re revisiting fairytale fantasy, but through an updated modern lens. True loves with happily ever afters and good versus evil are no longer the primary story drivers. I like it.