Review of "Maleficent"

Maleficent  ★

Disney's Maleficent is a needlessly violent and cruel adaptation of its 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty. The fact that I see mainstream critics calling this "sweet" and "family friendly" is ridiculous. A Disney film with a PG rating, marketed towards families, doesn't need to contain Lord of the Rings style battles, repeated violent acts against a drugged and/or helpless woman, and realistic looking physical violence with matching damage. I can't figure out what Disney, writer Linda Woolverton, or director Robert Stromberg were thinking.

Angelina Jolie is perfectly cast as the titular character and, in fact, her involvement was the main reason I placed this film on my list of most anticipated 2014 releases. She looks great as Maleficent and does the best she can with what she's given, however, that isn't much other than to stand around and glare at things or be lost in green-screen Hell. The makeup and costumes for her are all spot-on. I really can't think of another actress who could've pulled this role off better. There are some wonderful shots of her (and particularly her eyes) framed against the occasional stunning real-world set but these are the only bright spots in an otherwise dreadful film that seems to revel in muck similar to what its frog-like creatures enjoy throwing at each other.

Unfortunately, nobody else is given anything interesting to do around Jolie either so they are all relegated to the role of sideline characters in a never ending assault of CGI. The three fairy godmothers played by the talented Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville are a terrible attempt at comic relief and instead come off as criminally stupid and inept creatures who certainly should not be put in charge of caring for the baby Aurora after she's cursed by Maleficent.

And then there's Sharlto Copley. After hearing a lot about District 9 and his performance, my first time seeing him on screen was in the miserable Elysium. I found him to be equally miserable: a barely coherent accent, screaming most of his lines, and stuck in a character who didn't interest me in the slightest. I then caught up with District 9 and found it to be another film that suffered from director Neill Blomkamp's desire to distract from a good premise by being obsessed with odd transformations to his lead characters and preposterous action scenes. Copely and the film were competent but certainly not worthy of the hype I'd read about. He followed Elysium with another film that made my Worst of 2013 list: Spike Lee's Oldboy. To call his portrayal of a man seeking revenge in that film bizarre is a massive understatement. I still couldn't even begin to guess what he was going for. Now here he is with another bad accent, over-acting most of the time, and in another film that will be contending for the bottom of my yearly list. Enough please. There are actors who inspire me to see a film simply because they are starring in it. It's safe to say that I will start avoiding anything with Copley in the credits.

Maleficent adds nothing to the story that was told in the 1959 animated film. It makes no attempt to really dive into who Maleficent is or give her any motivation other than revenge. It's then jarring when she is stuck into moments of comedy or kindness simply because the plot requires it. I saw a several critics refer to this as a "Disney rape revenge fantasy" and figured that couldn't really be the case and they were reading too much into things. Sadly, it's not far off the mark at all. If you have young children I would urge you NOT to take them to this film. Watch Sleeping Beauty instead if you need a Maleficent fix. I haven't seen it since I was a kid but I would bet a paycheck it contains less violence and scenes that remind the viewer of rape or assault on women than this dredge.