Review: MALEFICENT (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Review: MALEFICENT (2014)

Angelina Jolie's pitch-perfect performance and appealing visuals can't save this shallow and uneven re-imagining of SLEEPING BEAUTY.

With the enormous success of last year's animated hit FROZEN, Disney has finally found a new formula where a supposedly evil character (as seen from Elsa the Snow Queen) is not clearly a bad person but actually a misunderstood "villain" caught by the unexpected circumstances. This year, Disney attempts to replicate that success in MALEFICENT, a revisionist take of the iconic title character from the 1959 animated classic SLEEPING BEAUTY. No doubt the concept is fascinating, but too bad the movie itself fails to capitalize the potential.

In this "untold" story of the title character, the movie begins with the winged young fairy Maleficent (Isobelle Molloy) who lives happily in the moors along with other fairies and fantastical creatures. One day, she meets a young boy named Stefan (Michael Higgins) and both of them become best friends ever since. But as the years go by, the two kingdoms between the humans and the moors have grown sour. Even the now-adult Stefan (Sharlto Copley) has become a power-hungry person and goes as far as drugging Maleficent (now played by Angelina Jolie) and cutting off her wings, for the sake to claim the promotion as a new king from the dying King Henry (Kenneth Cranham). With her wings already gone, Maleficent feels heartbroken and at the same time, vengeful. One day, when she learns about Stefan's newborn daughter, Aurora (Vivienne Jolie-Pitt), she decides to put a deadly curse against her.
As two-time Oscar winner for Best Art Direction in 2009's AVATAR and 2010's ALICE IN WONDERLAND, veteran art director-turned-director Robert Stromberg knows well how to make his movie as enthralling as possible. All the technical levels -- from the eye-catching visual effects to the exquisite costume design and spectacular art direction -- are simply impressive to marvel at. Special kudos also goes to veteran makeup artist Rick Baker who did a splendid job creating the evil fairy look of Angelina Jolie's Maleficent (her sculpted cheekbones are especially worth the high praise).

Speaking of Angelina Jolie, she is perfectly cast as Maleficent. In fact, I couldn't think anyone else playing such iconic character other than Jolie herself. She is especially fun to watch for when she gets all wicked with her viciously commanding presence. As Maleficent's minion Diaval who turned from black crow to human figure, Sam Riley gives a surprisingly sympathetic performance that suitably contrast against the malevolent nature of Angelina Jolie's Maleficent.

The majestic flying scene where the adult Maleficent, played by Angelina Jolie, is first introduced.

The biggest problem in this movie is Linda Woolverton's weak screenplay. It's a real pity that the supposedly potential premise is ruined by her haphazard and sketchy storytelling. For instance, the earlier sequence where the war broke out between King Henry (Kenneth Cranham) and his soldiers fighting against Maleficent and her fantastical creatures feel disappointingly vague. The movie also suffers from inconsistent tone. It tries to be bold and dark but the execution feels blunt. Even the movie's attempt to lighten up the tone by introducing the three bickering little fairies -- Flittle (Lesley Manville), Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton) and Thistletwit (Juno Temple) -- feels strangely out of place.

Another problem here is the way Robert Stromberg directed his scenes. At 97 minutes, the movie feels incomplete because Stromberg and his editing duo, Chris Lebenzon and Richard Pearson, cuts away too fast to make way for another scene without taking time to develop the story and the characters properly. Even the action sequences feel rushed and dare I say, lack of engaging moments.

Apart from Angelina Jolie, the rest of the casts are mostly a letdown. Elle Fanning may look beautiful with her angelic smile and wholesome appearance as Aurora, but it's a shame that her role feels underwritten. Sharlto Copley is surprisingly wasted in his lacklustre performance as the greedy King Stefan. Worst of all is Brenton Thwaites, who is barely there with his thankless performance as Prince Phillip.


No doubt most of the failures that plagued in this movie instantly reminds me of another ill-fated fairy tale movie two years ago called SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN. MALEFICENT could have been a potentially good summer movie, but what we have here instead is another high-concept fairy tale genre with poor execution.

* This review is written courtesy from Walt Disney Malaysia 3D press screening *


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