Maleficent Review


Over the last few years Disney have been working hard to strike some independence from the almighty Pixar. They've begun to create a niche of genre films that are seemingly completely disconnected from each other, but share the same DNA, the same genes. Take Tangled and Frozen, definitely the same family, but different stories from (potentially) different worlds. When watching Maleficent I felt like I'd seen such large chunks of it before, and surprisingly enough, these chunks of the movie were not from the original animated Sleeping Beauty upon which this story is based.

Maleficent Review

Tim Burton's live action Alice in Wonderland started it all off for Disney. It’s a movie which was at one point in the top 10 highest grossing movies of all time (the billion dollar club) and one which proved that Disney didn't need Pixar to still bring in the big bucks. This is a trick they tried to recreate (with some success, just not on the same scale) for Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and the Powerful. Again, this film shared so many similarities with Wonderland it could almost have been a sequel, yet telling completely different stories from completely separate worlds.

So with Maleficent, there's no originality here, the Sleeping Beauty animated film gets shoved through Disney's recently perfected "live action fantasy" template and we get all of the core elements of Wonderland and Oz, but with a surprising amount of other movies heavily borrowed from to boot.

Maleficent Review

For other movie references think Avatar mixed with Bryan Singer's (horrible) movie, Jack the Giant Slayer, mixed with bits of the Narnia films. The worst elements of this film owe themselves to the Jack the Giant Slayer aspects. Huge CGI battles (within the first few minutes) with little to no rationale as to why and without building that vital audience engagement first, and ridiculous accents/hammy lines of dialogue (Sharlto Copley being the worst offender) in shonky castle sets. These scenes - when they appear - make the whole movie dip in quality so dramatically in parts it's pretty astonishing at times.

However, once the movie stops trying to emulate its forebears and just starts trying to have fun, it actually does. Jolie is magnificent as Maleficent, a real human embodiment of the animated character and with a phenomenal range demonstrated to give the character the sufficient complexity required to justify the focus of the story. The supporting actors are mostly up to the task, Elle Fanning really doesn't have that much to do as the beauty and Imelda Staunton's weird leader of the triumvirate of fairy godmothers irritate rather than entertain.

Maleficent Review

Everyone knows Sleeping Beauty for the infamous dragon sequence at its conclusion, the part where Maleficent transforms from evil witch into the evil giant black and purple dragon. Considering the source material, it should come as no surprise that this also happens in Maleficent. But – as with so many elements of this movie – this is the classic tale with a twist, and it’s actually Maleficent’s assistant Diaval (originally a Raven, then a man) that gets transformed into a pretty unique Wyvern/Dragon with black raven feathers. Whilst this sequence towards the conclusion of the movie will undoubtedly entertain dragon fans that enjoy dragons in their movies, there’s not a great deal to see here, and it really is a shame that the dragon is stuck to the confines of the castle (unlike the original). That said, there’s more than enough good CGI, good action and spectacle to entertain for the duration of the movie.

Recommended?: You've seen it all before and unfortunately, not all of it is from films of any decent quality. The good news is that the film's strongest elements prevail to create some memorable imagery and an entertaining modern re-telling of one of Disney's classic back catalogue of stories. Here's hoping this doesn't trigger them to crack that live action fantasy template into overdrive and attempt live action remakes of everything else... oh wait… here comes Cinderella and Into the Woods.

Maleficent is rated 7.1 on IMDb and is available to buy on Amazon.com now.

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