Monday, 16 June 2014

Stars: 8 / 10

Fanciful, beautiful, exciting, and fun : an instant favourite!  With faeries, shapeshifters, enchanted forests, and Angelina Jolie being a badass in sexy fantasy costumes with horns... what's not to love?!

I was anxiously awaiting its release all year, as Maleficent has always been one of my favourite villains, and I must say, it far surpassed all of my expectations.

I saw it in 3D, which was great fun... though sadly, no theatre in my area is showing it in English, so I cannot properly comment on the original scripted dialogue and the quality of voice acting from the original cast, but the French dub wasn't too bad (for a dub), and I can say that the physical language of the film is really well done; Jolie's performance, in particular, was absolutely captivating!

In his directorial debut, Robert Stromberg's well-seasoned talents as a visual effects artist (90+ credits, to date, with a heavy emphasis on matte painting) were certainly put to good use. The effects nearly steal the show from Jolie, with lots of faeryland splendour and sparkle, beautiful landscapes, and adorable creatures. There's so much to see, and all of it is delightful.

Much to my surprise, the story is quite different from Disney's original Sleeping Beauty (on which this film is inspired, both as a prequel and a re-telling.) Although I'm a fan of the original, I am pleased with several of the changes, including what is, in my opinion, a much more appropriate and relevant moral (particularly for young ladies.) Bravo.

It remains a family film, though the story is darker than the original, and even brutal in one scene (I was not alone in gasping aloud!) One should be advised of the potential scariness for very young / sensitive viewers.

The characterisation is much more sophisticated than one might expect from a typical Disney film, and certainly more so than the original 1950's animated Sleeping Beauty. I found that most of the main characters (except for Aurora/Sleeping Beauty) have  much more dynamic personalities, as compared to their original counter-parts, and although they retain a certain archetype, no one is completely flat and mono-chromatic, and they even evolve (as real people do), throughout the course of story.

Maleficent is not a musical (thankfully). The film's score isn't particularly noteworthy (aha, see what I did there?) but there is a slightly strange, though not all together unpleasant, version of Sleeping Beauty's signature song Once Upon A Dream, sung by Lana Del Rey, that plays through the credits. If you're a Del Rey fan, you'll be pleased, and if not... well... most people don't care about the credits anyway, so hopefully, you're one of them.

The costumes and wardrobe, especially for Maleficent, are fantastic. I really enjoyed the re-imagined costumes for the 3 good faeries (so much fine detail!) There are a lot of winged characters in this tale (yay!) and each one is uniquely designed and detailed.

I highly recommend Maleficent  to anyone who loves a visually-stunning fantasy adventure and strong female leads.

Director: Robert Stromberg
Year: 2014
Main Cast: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning


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