Movie Review: Maleficent by Jason Burleson

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Many of you have probably heard the story of Sleeping Beauty.  It’s a story that like many other Disney motion pictures; it presents a clear cut picture of a classic Disney princess, Aurora, primed to take on an evil sorceress, Maleficent, who would stop at nothing to get what she wants.   What if, however, that story wasn’t so clear cut? What if the story we’ve heard was biased from its point of view?  What if we were able to see the other side of the story? The side of the story from Maleficent’s perspective could be different enough for us to change our opinions on exactly the type of person Maleficent actually is.  Could this perspective change even influence our thoughts on the most classic Disney archetype for evil villainesses?  This might just be a story worth hearing.

Like I said, many of us have heard the Sleeping Beauty story.  In a nut shell, the traditional story is that of an evil sorceress putting a spell on a baby that when she turns 16, she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into a deep unending sleep.  Once she falls into this sleep, she can only be awoken by her one true love.   Typical Disney or at least typical before now.  In Maleficent, we get to hear things from Maleficent’s perspective and this tells an entirely different and misunderstood aspect on the chain of events that produced such a curse.  Apparently, the story we all heard had a few gaps in it.

Upon hearing that Disney had decided to revamp the story of Sleeping Beauty by retelling from Maleficent’s perspective I was interested.  We’ve seen Disney become pioneers of mold breaking a few times now and thought this new idea could be a rather exciting one.  Truth be told I feel like it did exactly that.  It’s a difficult challenge telling the same story a different way and I think this worked.  Worked enough to get fans of the old Disney into the theaters while also encouraging a younger generation to remember the classic fairy tale stories.  Disney lovers will be happy with this film.

Movie goers will get a new story out of this film but unfortunately Disney may have come up short on some of the aspects that have made other recent top films as successful as they needed to be.  While the story telling was enjoyable and interesting a large chunk of the film, especially in the beginning is taken up by a large amount of CGI.  Personally, I love the effects of classic animation.  It is what made Disney movies what they were.  Changing technology however has made the movement into CGI and frame by frame animation has become the marathon runner being lapped by sprinters.  Remember how we all felt when Jar Jar Binks was introduced into Star Wars? Well, a lot of the characters in this film felt like that to me.  Wasted CGI animation for cheap laughs and no content.  It just didn’t have the classic feel of true Disney animated movie and to me, that held me back from enjoying it completely.

Fortunately, much of the second half of this film is only partially animated.  This is where the movie shines.  Most brightly in the embodiment of its lead character, Maleficent.  Angelina Jolie does an excellent job of bringing to life to possibly the most well-known of Disney villains.  Maleficent by all means is evil in the flesh but this is the first live action version we’ve ever seen.  Her laugh, her look, even her demeanor are perfected by Jolie and her portrayal will give you chills.  The younger version….not so much.  Children are just plain awkward most of the time, but the young version with distracting contacts, bright red lipstick, and even more awkward dialogue left me hating much of the first half of this movie.

Truth be told there is nothing scarier than a woman scorned and Maleficent paints that picture more than anything.  The new twist on the viewpoints within this story combined with greed, envy and revenge could absolutely keep the most distractible movie goers entertained.  Be prepared to leave this film with a new understanding of one of the most legendary villains ever involved in a Disney movie. It’s not often you get to see a character become the hero and the villain of the same story.

by Jason Burleson

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