Friday, May 30, 2014

Movie with Abe: Maleficent

Directed by Robert Stromberg
Released May 30, 2014

Some stories deserve to be told more than once. Reimagining a classic fairy tale from an entirely different point of view can be immensely enlightening and enticing and offer boundless opportunities for creativity. Though it hasn’t (yet) been made into a movie, “Wicked,” which repositions “The Wizard of Oz” from the perspective of the Wicked Witch, has enjoyed a long and successful run as a Broadway musical. Now, Disney takes a stab at “Sleeping Beauty,” recasting the story in a new light, painting the seemingly evil Maleficent as a misunderstood hero turned bad by the ignoble actions of those around her.

“Maleficent” begins quite peacefully, as the title character begins as a young fairy with wings who guards over her magical land. An early friendship with a human boy, Stefan, turns sour as he chooses his ambition over their romance, betraying her to enable him to become the next king of his land. Predictably, being made to see like a vicious beast and outcast in effect turns Maleficent into one, though, since this is her story, the audience is privy to more than just the fearful public’s opinion.

There’s something inherently clever to the idea behind this film, turning a conventional and well-known story, whose origins date back to the late 1600s, into something fresh and equally enthralling. Painting humankind as the imperialistic enemy is also a brave ploy. Many members of the supporting cast – including Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, and Juno Temple as fairies and Elle Fanning as Sleeping Beauty herself, Aurora – contribute greatly to the overall allure of this universe and its kinder characters.

The film as a whole, however, never quite achieves the proper tone. Maleficent seems too casually omniscient, well aware of everything going on around her yet hopeless to comprehend how easy it might be to fix. The film has a general air of silliness that detracts from its dramatic effectiveness. Leading the cast, Angelina Jolie has fun milking her role for what it’s worth, but thinking back to her directorial debut, “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” which featured horrific tales of war in Bosnia, it’s hard to believe that this is anything more than a paycheck for her. Sure, it’s a PG-rated Disney film, but it certainly doesn’t satisfy all ages in the same way that its Oz-set companion piece does.


No comments: