If you have been following this blog for any amount of time you know I am a tough critic when it comes to the Disney live action remakes. A few I like (Pete’s Dragon, Cinderella) but most are bland at best. However, there’s a special level of hatred in my heart for 2014’s supposed reinterpretation of Sleeping Beautycalled Maleficent. I hated pretty much every decision that film made, so you can imagine my hesitancy when they announced a sequel for this year, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. But I pride myself on keeping an open mind for EVERY film. So, I went to see it today, and left with surprisingly mixed feelings.
First, let’s talk about the positives. Maleficent: The Mistress of Evil is not a cash grab. It is obvious the creators tried their best to improve upon the original film in almost every way. To begin with, the production design is far better. The original felt like a bland CGI world I’ve seen a million times. In contrast, this film has beautiful cinematography and world building, which felt fresh and original. I particularly loved a long sequence in a nest where everything was monochromatic: filled with beautiful grays and whites woven as background for the bat-like Maleficent. Also, all of the costumes and make-up were stunning. Some of the best I’ve seen all year.
For the first act of the movie I was actually digging the film. It starts out as a fantasy version of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, which was weird and different. As opposed to the original, which felt like an apology and bastardization of Sleeping Beauty (especially the fairies! How dare they!), this film felt alive with its own lore and story. The acting was also much better especially from Michelle Pfeiffer and Elle Fanning who is actually given something to do as Aurora.
Unfortunately this is where my positives stop. Once we have our basic setup of Maleficent vs Pfeiffer the movie begins to falter. Where the dinner scene was surreal and strange, most of the remaining second half is a bland fantasy war movie. It reminded me of the war scene in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, which I hate, except it went on much longer. Despite being pretty, the story dragged, and Maleficent becomes a character who is acted upon more than she acts. Most of the time she is moping around waiting for other people to do things, so she can either sulk or acquiesce to their ideas.
I also was puzzled by the tone and audience Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (the title is so dumb by the way) is going for? The battle gets intense including a scene that is gas chamber-like for our heroes. I don’t think kids will find this entertaining nor are adults invested enough in the lore to be engrossed. I never watched Game of Thrones, but I know enough about it to spot the many times Hollywood has tried to capture the themes and aesthetics of that series, and this is definitely one of those films (there is even a long sequence with a dragon…)
It’s a real bummer because if they had kept the strange tone of the early scenes I could have had a surprise hit. I don’t even see why the war plotline is necessary? Why not have a movie about Aurora trying to plan a wedding with Maleficent and Pfeiffer bickering the whole time? That would have been amazing. As it is, we got a impressive looking war movie that loses its guts midway through.
I wanted to go fresh because I do appreciate the obvious attempt to improve upon the ‘Maleficent turning into the victim of a man’ nonsense of the original film, but that second half was too dull and derivative for me to recommend. Maybe give it a rental if curious? Otherwise, I’d say pass on this fairy story.
You guys all know my feelings for Maleficent. It was my least favorite movie of 2014 and that includes Transformers: Age of Extinction….
This week in my youtube Disney Canon Project we are up to Sleeping Beauty, and I had several requests to review Maleficent. Well, I’ve already ranted about the film and declared it my worst of 2014 and so just harping on it more felt redundant.
So I thought it would be cool to get another perspective. Thankfully my friend Emilee was willing to join me for a discussion of the film, which she enjoyed. She didn’t think it was perfect but she liked it.
I think we ended up having a good discussion, and I can see things from her point of view. I still hate the film but at least I can see why it worked for her, and I think that is cool. I know a lot of you hate Maleficent too, but I hope you listen to another perspective and don’t just troll it.
Anyway, it was a lot of fun to talk with a friend about movies even if it is one I don’t particularly care for. If any of you would like to join me for a discussion on a movie or have an idea for a future discussion let me know in the comments section.
This made me laugh. (And I remind you I loved Tangled. It’s #4 on my ranking) . The birthday thing is a huge plothole with Tangled and how did Gothel know the song and how to use the flower? Those are big problems but I don’t care. Still I thought this was funny.
That’s why I really don’t give much credence to the plothole arguments . All movies have them. All stories do but you go with it and enjoy the experience (or not). It’s all about whether you can accept the director and writers vision or not. Plotholes really don’t matter except in bad movies.
Being a Disney buff I have often been asked for my feelings on Once Upon a Time and indeed I probably should have started watching the show much sooner but it was on Sunday nights and my Sunday nights were filled with Amazing Race, The Simpsons and other shows. Now TAR is on Fridays and I find myself having little to nothing to watch on Sundays besides the Simpsons and I’d heard great things about the recent OUAT season featuring characters from Frozen that I decided to give it a watch. Luckily seasons 1-3 are on Netflix stream so that makes catching up very easy!
It’s a pretty simple premise for a show, one that only ABC could stage with it’s Disney pedigree. The story begins with a town in Maine called Storybrooke. It is a town of displaced fairytale creatures who have all forgotten their alter-egos because of a curse put on them all by the Evil Queen/Regina in modern world. Regina is played with a lot of gusto by Lana Parilla.
A seeming commoner named Emma comes into the town by a boy who claims to be her son. She is played with mixed results (the acting is not great in this show…) by Jennifer Morrison who some might recognize from How I Met Your Mother.
Henry played by Jared S Gilmore is Regina’s adopted son but he hates her and knows she is out to destroy everyone in Storybrooke. It’s kind of funny to have a kid completely deplore their mother. Never seen that in a show before.
Emma becomes the Sheriff and as she seeks to uncover her past we meet with a variety of storybook characters. The biggest are Snow White played by Ginnifer Goodwin, who I am not a huge fan of but she is Ok here. Of course she has her Prince Charming who is played by Josh Dallas in a more fleshed out role than the few seconds the animated film gives us (naturally of course). His storylines about being a false prince is one of the most entertaining of the first season.
Then we get episodes with one or more of the following characters.
Geppetto and Pinocchio
Belle played by Lost’s Emile de Ravin
Cinderella played by Jessy Schram
The Blue Fairy from Pinocchio (and other fairies and one who I think is Tinker Bell but I’m not sure) The 7 Dwarves, Grumpy in Particular gets a plot Hansel and Gretel
Red Riding Hood by Meghan Ory
Jimminy Cricket- a heavy Snow White and Pinocchio influence on the show
The Mad Hatter
And our main villain of the franchise aside from Regina is Rumpelstiltsken who is played very creepily by Robert Carlyle. I kind of hope that success of this series might inspire Disney to do a Rumpelstiltsken. I’ve often wondered what their version would look like. It would be different than any of their other animated fairytales because it would have to feature a princess who gets married towards the beginning of the story and has a baby. So far Disney princesses have always been virginal adolescent girls. Also, you’d have to have her marry a King who was going to kill her if she didn’t make straw into gold which isn’t exactly PC but it would be interesting to see what the Disney people could do with it .
So what are my thoughts on the first 22 episodes of the show? Well, overall I’m entertained by it. The acting is sometimes cringe-worthy and the production values are not strong but the story is interesting enough and keeps me flipping between worlds enough to be engaged. It’s not meant to be taken too seriously, just a lot of fun.
Some may wonder why I hated Maleficent, a recent fairytale adaptation and give a passing recommendation to this telling. Here’s the difference- Maleficent fundamentally changes the characters. What was once evil is now good and what was good is evil or inattentive and idol at best. In this show what was bad in the movies are still bad. Sure Regina has a few softer moments but she’s pretty ruthless both as the queen and mayor of town. Anything that is added to it is in addition to the original stories, not a replacement for those stories.
Maleficent pissed me off because it ruined the character of Maleficent. Plus, I am way more likely to be forgiving of terrible production values and bad acting in a TV show than a big budget Disney movie. When they carefully restage pivitol scenes from the original movie and then change everything that happens it makes me angry. They do not do anything like that here in Once Upon a Time. The events are the fairytales. It is the before and after for the characters and the importance of said actions that matter.
For example, the Snow White story is basically the same as the movie down to the poison apple. Where it changes is after they are married and the curse is placed on them and all in attendance. Pinocchio is basically the same down to Monstro and the Blue Fairy (although no Pleasure Island yet) but what happens to Pinocchio when he grows up is different. You see what I mean?
All the lame fairytale retellings of late have attempted to reshape and reform the originals and they’ve all sucked. This does it’s own thing and it works pretty well. It’s campy and silly but I was entertained. I’m curious to keep watching (which I suppose is the real test of a good show).
What do you guys think about Once Upon a Time? I’ve still got 2 seasons to watch before I can catch up to Season 4 but I have been enjoying the podcasts over at Post Show Recaps by my twitter friend Mike Bloom. If you like that kind of thing be sure to check it out.
Let’s just start this review by saying I was incredibly skeptical going into Maleficent. The recent fairytale adaptations have been so bad. In recent years we’ve gotten Tim Burton’s awful Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and Huntsman, Mirror Mirror, Red Riding Hood, Return to Oz have all been dark, gloomy, boring, ponderous pieces of junk. Yep, that’s what I think.
So I was not excited about Maleficent but I always try to go into a movie with an open mind hoping to be dazzled. And…
Here’s the trailer
It’s more of the same I’m afraid. Maleficent basically does to Sleeping Beauty what Phantom Menace did to Star Wars. It waters down it’s iconic villain to the point beyond recognition making her the hero of the story. I get that people are complicated and rarely all bad but a fairytale traditionally is a battle of good vs evil. If it is kind of good vs kind of bad than it ends up being very boring. Imagine if Voldermort had been really a nice guy after all? Would that have captured our interest for 8 films and 7 books? No! Imagine if the Ring of Power was really the ring of goodness and lollipops would Frodo have sacrificed all to destroy it? No! In this kind of story we need evil and we need good and then the story builds around that.
So Maleficent starts out with our backstory and we find out that she is a unique fairy, a fully-sized human where the fairies from the original movie are tiny, strange looking creatures (if you thought the old fairies were annoying get ready…). Plus, they change all the personalities of the fairies. Flora is supposd to be the leader, Fauna is silly and Merryweather is the realist. In this they are all the same. If you look at the original the fairies actually are the brains and heart behind defeating Maleficent. Now they are stupid, negligent and annoying.
So Maleficent is a joyous happy girl who meets a boy named Stefan who is a human boy that she befriends.
They of course end up falling in love in a montage and then Stefan returns to the land of the humans.
There is a battle with the king with the tree people and Maleficent and snoozefest another battle in this type of movie. I’m so sick of the warrior scenes. The tree creatures felt like a copy of tree people we’ve seen in a thousand other movies. I felt that way about most of Maleficent. Seen it all before.
The CGI throughout the movie looks dirty and incredibly fake. When you think of the stunning artistry of Sleeping Beauty, a movie that took almost a decade to make because the layering of the backdrops and the literary quality to the characters this cheesy seen it all before CGI is an embarrassment. It’s like with Return to Oz. Don’t take the brightness and joy of the original and give me a cloudy, murky, CGI ridden world.
So, SPOILER)#$)#@()($)#($)#@($)#($- Don’t read any further if you don’t want to know a few things in the story)
So the king wants revenge on Maleficent for the battle and he tells Stefan if he can kill her and bring him her wings than he will be made King. So we get a pretty good scene where Maleficent and Stefan reunite, cuddle (maybe more?) and then he drugs her and instead of killing her cuts off her wings.
Stefan is played by Sharlto Copley who oddly enough I thought looked like Michael Bay. He’s terrible in the movie. His accent comes in and out and it feels like bad neighborhood theater. There is no chemistry between him and Maleficent at any time which is kind of crucial because it is the reason she is bad is because of her broken heart.
Then we get to the day of the christening and the blessings which are so powerfully done in the original. Instead of a whole ballet like in the original we get a few seconds of Flora giving Aurora beauty and then Merryweather (they change their names here and make them idiots) gives her the wish ‘of never being blue’.
That’s not right!!!! Fauna is supposed to give Aurora the gift of music and then when Maleficent gives the curse Merryweather gives her the gift of being asleep not dead. In this version Maleficent is the one that curses her to sleep not death!!!
Are you kidding me? What kind of a lame villain is this? Cursing her greatest enemy that she will sleep until true love’s kiss? That’s the lamest curse I’ve ever heard. Certainly not worthy of Maleficent.
So Fauna never gives her blessing I’m not sure why. I guess they didn’t want to have Aurora singing? I don’t see why not when you’ve got such a great song from the original which they only use in the credits.
So the the king hides the baby with ‘the idiots’ and they leave her alone for long periods of time where Maleficent looks in on her and is by her side. This makes no sense. Even if you felt some guilt if you were angry enough to curse someone you wouldn’t immediately be by their side watching over them. Grrr
Prince Phillip is in this but very briefly but they try to pull a Frozen twist on it and it is so ridiculous. In the original the scene where Aurora is transfixed and pricks her finger it is eery and frightening. Here it is completely boring. And then we find out that it is the true love of Maleficent that breaks the spell!!!!
Are you kidding me? This is the woman who has horns on her head. She controls minions and locks the prince up in a dungeon and tells him ‘so much for true love!’.
Even if you want to make a more nuanced character you can’t completely change said character. At least the Star Wars prequels as atrocious as they are didn’t negate the originals completely. It’s not like Vader was the hero at the end. No he was very bad and you could see why he would destroy entire planets in the next movies. This completely changes everything about the original.
I’m amazed this didn’t tick more people off. I thought it was outrageous. Shame on you Disney! Wicked, which started this whole trend, told the story how the wicked witch became wicked. It didn’t try to change her so she wasn’t wicked at all.
Now that Aurora is awaken by her true love’s kiss (Maleficent) she rules the combined land s of fairies and men in peace with Maleficent by her side who gets her wings back. Groan, groan, groan.
So good things about it? Jolie is okayish. I’ve heard a lot of people excuse her performance. (Her daughter Viviene is cute as baby Aurora). But I actually thought she shouted most of her lines and they didn’t sound like a real person and since the point of this movie was to create a real person it was a failure. I never felt connected to her or sorry for her. Also her look which everyone loved always looked like a costume not her real body. Basically Maleficent is supposed to be like Voldemort, the epitome of evil. She is a she-devil, horns and all. In this it seemed like someone in a Maleficent costume. Kind of ready to go to a biker bar with leather all about her.
Sorry guys. I know a lot of you liked it but I was not a fan of Maleficent. You cannot go back and completely change the events of a story. Show another side, fine (although still not a fan) but do not permanently change the events of the plot. In the end what they did was a remake of the original and a shoddy one at that. I honestly thought this was worse than Phantom Menace… It also looks murky and dark, the CGI sucks and the acting is really bad.
Overall Grade- F
Unfortunately it made a lot of money so the trend of butchering my favorite childhood movies is going to continue. Next up Cinderella which I am slightly more hopeful about because it has already been done so many times since the 1950 Disney.
PS there is no dancing or singing or once upon a dream and considering the original was based on a Tchaikovsky ballet that is another unfortunate change …No sleeping spell over the town and the dragon isn’t Maleficent after all who isn’t killed by the sword of truth but the crow hurt by the evil King Stefan. Sigh…Yes, they even changed the crow around.
Sometimes I feel bad for Walt Disney. Nearly every time he took a risk post-Snow White it was a failure. And yet he’d do a safe movie like Lady and the Tramp (as great as it is it is not risky artistically) it was a big hit. Visual artistic achievements like Fantasia, Bambi, Alice and Wonderland all did poorly at first at the box office.
Unfortunately with Sleeping Beauty we have another artistic risk and another initial failure . So much so they would not make another fairy tale princess movie until 1989, 30 years later!
In researching Sleeping Beauty I learned it was actually in development for some time (like most of the Disney films of the 50s). Always wanting to try something new, Walt Disney liked the idea of turning Tchaikosky’s ballet into an animated feature film, but things couldn’t quite come together and it remained on the back burner. Finally in 1950 work was officially begun and at first things went quickly. They even had all the voice work recorded by the end of 1952, which surprised me . But it makes sense because Disneyland has Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and it was opened in 1955. Sleeping Beauty wasn’t released till 1959 .
For Sleeping Beauty Walt went with a new approach creating a “living illustration from Medieval artwork”. We start out the story with a grand book and then it zooms in on the pictures until those images start to move. Backgrounds were also created in layers almost like a scene from a play where panels are pushed in and out.
In this introductory scene you can see these layers. Every person crossing the bridge including the juggler in yellow are animated separately.
Part of this look is probably due to Disney’s delegation of responsibilities. Much like with Mary Blair in Alice in Wonderland, Disney gave most of the creative control and design to lead animator and background artist Eyvind Earl. His elaborate backdrops would take 7-10 days to paint while a normal film could be done in 1 day.
The paper look is also interesting because it is the first time they used a xerox method to make cells. It was eventually abandoned because the lines weren’t good enough, but I think you can still see a little of it’s after effects in the film.
A lot of critics at the time criticized its artistic approach but I kind of love it. It’s different and beautiful- like diving into a the pages of a book.
The character of Maleficent was meant to be the personification of all evil- basically the devil. Her name is from maleficentia, which means evil doing in Latin (I love that Disney had a film with Maleficent as the villain and the next with Cruella, not the most creative names but both work! I mean are you going to have a good person named Cruela?). She also has horns like the devil and her eyes glow like an evil spirit. There is nothing wounded or misunderstood about her. In this movie she is all bad but in an entertaining way.
The fairies were designed to be like Huey, Lewey and Dewey with 3 different colors separating them. At first Walt wanted them to look the same but the other animators convinced him that would be boring. Flora, voiced by the amazing Verna Felton, is the leader of the 3. Fauna is soft-spoken and motherly and Merryweather is the spunky one. For side characters they are actually pretty fleshed out- we see them cry, laugh, feud etc.
Phillip was created to be the first dynamic human male character in a Disney film. They had wanted to make the princes in Snow White and Cinderella bolder but Disney didn’t feel like the animators could animate males well enough at the time.
One nice thing about Sleeping Beauty is we do see more of Philip than almost any other prince. We see many sides to him- sweet, romantic, good dancer, but still courageous and strong. For a long section Philip, the Fairies and Maleficent are the only people awake in the story- giving their characters a gravatas not found in many other Disney films. I’m surprised boys didn’t respond more to Philip and Sleeping Beauty with it’s terrific action and minimal romantic dialogue?
Most of you probably know the story. It is the 14th century in a magical land. A king and queen finally are able to have a daughter who they name Aurora. She is to be blessed by the fairies at a large gathering. It is almost like a giant birthday party for the whole kingdom.
Each of the fairies present their gifts to the princess. Flora and Fauna are first and the gifts are shown in a bit of a surrealist touch (those Dali fans coming in again!). I think it is a beautiful scene.
But before Maryweather can give her gift they have a visitor. Someone who wasn’t invited to the party- Maleficent. (word to the wise- if you have a sworn enemy don’t give them reason to be mad at you. Invite her to the party!) They ask her if she is offended at not getting asked…(This is a spectacular scene)
So to save Aurora the fairies come up with a plan to hide her away in a cottage in the woods. They will use no magic so nobody will suspect. The funny thing is if they know the curse is fulfilled at 16 why not send her away at 12 or 14? Does she really need to be taken away from her parents as a baby?…I digress.
Next we see Maleficent with her goons and minions trying to find the child with no luck.
She also always has her crow who seems to be a part of her magic.
So quickly it zooms ahead to the 16th birthday. The fairies are planning a party and we get a humorous scene of them trying to sew and bake without magic (although you do wonder since they haven’t been using magic how have they gotten by for 16 years never cooking or sewing?). Nevertheless it is a very cute scene.
They send Aurora out, now known as Briar Rose, and we get to hear her sing. The score is actually all from the ballet, and the songs are minimal. However, the singing they did get is beautiful.
There is then a comic scene with the forest creatures that is cute but to me feels a little too campy for the artistic style of the movie. It just doesn’t fit in.
Not knowing they are betrothed royalty, Aurora meets Prince Phillip and they dance together in really the only song in the picture aside from the hail song at the opening. I love it.
Aurora and Phillip agree to meet later that night but when she returns home the fairies tell her she is being taken to the palace. Aurora goes but with a heavy heart.
We then get an unnecessary scene between the two kings drinking and toasting their children who are to be married. The Kings get a little tipsy along with the lute player.
Next you see her getting ready in the castle and this scene with the color of her face and Maleficent’s eyes is one of Disney’s best.
I love when she says “Did you think you could defeat me: the mistress of evil?”. One thing that worries me about the 2014 version is they are softening her up. They have to in order to create a prequel,and most of the time that doesn’t work (think Star Wars prequels…). Maleficent is basically the devil. In fact, she is proud of her loathsomeness. Later on with Prince Phillip she see’s it as her shining hour.
Not everything needs a softer side. Most of the time softer means bland.
So Aurora pricks her finger and is put to sleep. This is a perhaps unavoidable problem with Sleeping Beauty is that most of the time the princess is asleep. Snow White had some of this problem.
However, you really feel for the fairies in this scene, so that makes up for some of Aurora’s blandness. The fairies could have been such cliches but the writing is quite good and we really get to know them.
Flora decides to put the entire kingdom to sleep with Aurora but just before Phillip’s father mutters about a girl his son met in the woods. Flora realizes it is the boy Aurora met earlier and they fear for Philips’s safety.
Unfortunately Maleficent has beaten them there and in a great scene traps the prince taking him away.
Phillip gets locked in the dungeon and he and Maleficent have a terrific scene together I wish I could find.
Thinking she has gotten her revenge and the Prince is going to rot away in her dungeon she walks up to her lair and has a great line ‘I shall finally be able to sleep well for the first time in 16 years’. I mean who can sleep when revenge and evil is on the docket?
The fairies help Philip and give him the sword of truth and shield of virtue. (those names seem right out of King Arthur. Really fit 14th century well)
Finding out she won’t be able to sleep we get this amazing scene- without a doubt one of Disney’s best.
It’s also actually Flora that really saves the day, which I kind of like.
I love that her body isn’t even there. She’s like road kill on the ground.
Then we get our happy ending and it is a wonderful story. And for the record, I like her better in blue!
Are there flaws in Sleeping Beauty? Yes, the princess is bland. The fairies schtick is laid on very thick. The woodland animals don’t work for me. The drinking scene with the kings is unnecessary.
But there is a lot more right. I love the strong prince . I love Maleficent. Watch On Bald Mountain in Fantasia and I think you will agree in personality and design Maleficent is basically the devil from that picture as a woman- even down to the minions.
A lot of people hate the style, but I like it. I think it is an interesting take on storytelling and beautiful in its own way. I also like the Tchaikosky score. It gives a lightness and flow to the piece that works. Once Upon a Dream, while one of the only songs, is lovely and sung very well.
I like there is action and a great villain who really tests the characters, pushing them to their limit. I also remember it was the first time I had ever heard a character say the word ‘hell’ in a movie. It was pretty scandalous!
I honestly can’t imagine any kids not liking Sleeping Beauty. It is without a doubt one of their best.