Thursday, June 19, 2014

Not So Wicked

Director: Robert Stromberg
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Sam Riley
Released: May 30, 2014
Viewed in theaters: June 8, 2014

Slight spoilers even if you've already seen Sleeping Beauty.

I watched Sleeping Beauty about 10 years ago and found a review about a paragraph long I wrote for it. I was not impressed. I called it "hokey" and declared it had me "rolling my eyes most of the time." Ooh, burn!  Princess Aurora has to be the worst Disney princess ever (EVER!). She's just there to look pretty and sleep. She is so lame! And I know a lot of people think "Aurora" is a pretty name,  but I hate it. It sounds like you have a mouthful of marbles when you say also sounds like a name Scooby-Doo would have no problem pronouncing...Aurora! Obviously if this film had been called Aurora, I would not have seen it. Maleficent, on the other hand, is way more interesting and a frightening Disney villain. She's evil, she knows it and she owns it.

I was curious to see if they were going to keep Maleficent evil from start to finish or give her an origin story and redemption arc and was not surprised when it was the latter since just making her like the animated version would be too one-dimensional. I was thinking it was going to follow the story of Sleeping Beauty but have flashbacks of Maleficent's backstory and twist the ending to make her redeeming. Well, it took some liberties with the original. I can't remember what stayed the same and what they drastically changed.

We learn that Maleficent is from the Moors a magical land filled with CGI creatures. Some are so ugly they're cute and some are just terrifying. She is a fairy who was orphaned as a young girl and the first time she ever sees a human is when she's about 12 years old. His name is Stefan and he will later grow up to become Aurora's father. As teenagers, they have a romance, but eventually he starts coming around less because he's more interested in becoming King which he does when the King at the time declares whoever brings him Maleficent's wings, he will give him the throne. (He was attacked by Maleficent and died from his injuries). In a scene that's been compared to rape, Stefan drugs Maleficent, then cuts off her wings leaving her to wake up in agony and disbelief. He is shown about to kill her after he drugs her, but can't go through with it.

If she wasn't already angry at Stefan for ignoring her before, you can bet she's irate at him now and has become full blown evil. We see how she acquires her staff and raven (who can turn into a human...can't remember if he did that in the animated movie! ) The one scene they do almost verbatim from the 1959 version is Aurora's christening when Maleficent comes in to crash the party which is pretty bad-ass. As Maleficent, Angelina Jolie plays her very theatrically and you can tell she's having fun with the role. Now while she did come off as a little menacing, I didn't find her that scary, but I heard a little kid crying during this scene. She could have been crying for some reason unrelated to the movie though. This movie is rated PG but I feel like it might be scary for anyone under 6...who should just stick to the G rated movies, anyway, or just don't bring anyone under 6 to the movies... 

The baby they had for that scene to play Aurora was seriously the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. And she was super smiley which was adorable. Yes, most babies are cute, but I would never call a baby "beautiful" but this baby was really pretty! And Angelina's own daughter, Vivian plays five year old Aurora in a couple of scenes because she was the only kid who wasn't afraid of Angelina in her Maleficent get-up, ha! While watching the movie, I couldn't help but be impressed with Angelina's cheekbones because those things could cut some serious glass, but then I read they enhanced those as well as her eyes with some movie magic. 

As we all know, Maleficent puts a curse on Aurora that will cause her to prick her finger on a spindle on her 16th birthday and this will cause her to fall into an endless sleep which can only be lifted by true love's kiss which Maleficent knows doesn't exist because she had her heart broken by Aurora's father. King Stefan (Sharlto Copely) orders all the spindles in the land to be burned and locked into the dungeon but still sends Aurora away to live in a cottage in the forest with the three pixies (played by Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville). I found the pixies to be so annoying in the animated film and could not stand them. They are still quite annoying, but even more so, terrifying to look at! They made CGI pixies, then glued the face of the actress on the pixie they were portraying. It was absolutely terrifying and just didn't look right. They make themselves into normal humans during the time they're watching Aurora in the cottage and that was a huge relief for me! I don't know why they just didn't do what they did with Julia Roberts when she played Tinkerbell in Hook and have the actresses just acting against really large objects to make themselves small. To be fair, I haven't seen Hook in ages so maybe that doesn't hold up as well, but it couldn't have been bad as what they did in this movie. That was just scary! 

Aurora (Elle Fanning) still manages to find her way back to the castle and prick her finger and fall into a deep sleep. One of the pixies tells the King that "she's only sleeping" and he goes ballistic which I don't really blame him. She may be "only sleeping", but there's only one way to wake her and at that point it's looking impossible she'll ever wake up. 

As Maleficent has been spying/keeping an eye on/checking up with Aurora/whatever you want to call it, she's actually developed a soft spot for the girl who thinks Maleficent is her fairy godmother as she knows she's been keeping watch over her since she was a young girl. Maleficent scoffs at this, but then invites the girl to play with the magical GCI creatures of the Moors. In one scene, a generically cute boring boy comes by to say hello Aurora. Oh, look, it's Phillip! Yawn, I mean, yay! 

Phillip comes back later when he's at the castle and the pixies encourage him to kiss Aurora which he does and she doesn't wake up. At first, I thought she didn't wake up because that was seriously the lamest kiss I have ever seen. He barely brushed his lips against hers. Just between you and me, I think Prince Phillip might be gay. But no, it doesn't work because Phillip doesn't love Aurora....because he's gay? But in a scene similar to another Disney  movie that came out last year and stars Adele Dazeem (sorry, that will never get old!), a tearful Maleficent tells Aurora she's sorry and kisses her forehead...and then she awakes. She's probably not asleep for longer than an hour and in the animated movie, wasn't she asleep for a few months weeks? Months? Years? I really don't remember. 

If you're waiting for Maleficent to turn into a dragon, you will sorely be disappointed. There is still a dragon though, but it's just not her who morphs into it. And as with any Disney movie, the villain (who is King Stefan in this instance) dies by falling to his death.   

If you're a firm believer Maleficent should always and forever remain evil, this movie is not for you. And even I had mixed feelings about Maleficent showing a more human side, but I knew there was no way they couldn't make a movie about her story without giving her a redemption arc. But seriously, the only reason to really watch this movie is for Angelina Jolie's performance. It's now my second favorite AJ performance...after Lisa in Girl, Interrupted, of course! 

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