Overview: A faerie takes revenge on the man who broke her heart and stole her wings. 2014;Walt Disney Studios and Motion Pictures; Rated PG; 97 minutes.
The Mistress Of All Evil: Predictably, the best part of this film is Angelina Jolie. Luckily, Disney favorite screenwriters Linda Woolverton and Charles Perrault seem to be aware of their villainess’ powerful presence because the script keeps her in nearly every scene. Performance, wardrobe, and makeup transforms the recognizable starlet into a faithful live version of one of the most famous animated villains of all time. It is casting so obvious that it is perfect– from her body language, to her laugh, to the delivery of her spare comedic lines. However, while we see that she’s ever-present, we aren’t provided with enough of Jolie actually being Maleficent, as she spends most of the film watching and waiting. It’s a shame she has so little dialogue and not enough opportunity to command attention as she does during Aurora’s christening. That particular scene is both more loyal to its source material than any we’ve been given in other fairy tale adaptations and the most powerful and enjoyable sequence in this entire movie. Fans of Sleeping Beauty are given the opportunity to relive the moment when Maleficent brings hell down on half the kingdom. This is a special scene, intelligently conceived and presented by Director Robert Stromberg. Stromberg’s complete focus on Maleficent’s story and his prompt placement of every other character into a supporting role (even Aurora) creates an obvious and ready comparison to Gregory Maguire’s Wicked. True to its namesake, this movie really is all about getting Maleficent’s side of the famous tale.
The Missing Pieces: With only a 97 minute run time, Maleficent is short and sweet compared to most of its predecessor in the fairy tale adaptation genre. The film could have benefited from some extra time spent on characterization and expository explanation. Not enough is provided in the way of understanding prior to the reveal of Maleficent’s vengeful spirit; and some of her motivations aside from her rage toward Stefan, are vague, at best. Working from a blank slate of historical understanding and building from just the information provided within the context of the film, the war between the human kingdom and the moors seems almost unwarranted. And the growing relationship between Maleficent and Stefan is rushed and unconvincing. These missing pieces leave a story structure that feels like an incomplete product.
One More Thing: Speaking of Stefan, I can’t fully forgive the performance of Sharlto Copley as the King. Copley’s speech patterns have been adjusted necessarily in many films, but in this film, his dialect may have been suitably paired with subtitles. Since his breakthrough performance, Copley continually carries with him a certain misplaced manic energy that was comfortable to his role in District 9, but here it just feels sorely awkward.