Sunday 15 June 2014

Review: Maleficent

World of Blackout Film Review

Maleficent Poster

Cert: PG / 97 mins / Dir. Robert Stromberg
WoB Rating: 6/7

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I didn't get round to re-watching Disney's Sleeping Beauty before going to see Maleficent. And I say re-watching, but I honestly can't remember the last time I saw it. When I was very, very small, certainly. I seem to have more recollection of the accompanying story-book than I do of the film itself. No matter though, I was familiar enough with the story to catch up as I went, right?

Well largely, yes. Although I did clock several moments in the sequel/retelling that are signposted like massive callbacks, and I imagine they'd be quite neat if I had the knowledge to connect them fully. I'm just very aware that this film isn't really aimed at me, while at the same time, it's not not aimed at me (hence the casting of Ms Jolie). Anyhow, despite all this, I really enjoyed it. More a retelling than a prequel, Disney retool their classic iteration of the story from the titular evil fairy's point of view. And while it's not without its fair share of saccharine, the result is a lot more engaging that I was expecting. Not as doom-and-gloom as the trailer would suggest, but not entirely pink-fairy-wings either.

Visually, it's about as close to its predecessor as you can get with live-action, and Disney have gone to great lengths to make Maleficent look and feel like a companion piece. Although part of me (the awkward, old-school, traditionalist part which doesn't always walk in-step with the marketing divisions) thinks that a traditional drawn-animation would have looked just as good, if not better. The film struggles at times with the sheer amount of sprites, fairies and magic flowers on-screen, to the point where it looks like a CGI animation. To have the live-action Angelina walking/flying around in the middle is jarring, and almost reminded me of the fox-hunting sequence in Mary Poppins (except in that film, the effect was intentional). That said, the flying sequences are absolutely astounding in 3D, largely because of the amount of CGI, and there's no doubt as to how meticulously the film's been assembled.

The acting's a slightly different story, however, with poor old Angelina left carrying the load as she plays the role completely straight. Jolie's quite magnificent as the evil/misguided fairy, and it's clear she had a lot of fun while also taking things completely seriously. The rest of the cast are a mixed bag, mostly passable, but I had a problem with Michael Higgins playing young Stefan, and the fairies Flittle, Knotgrass and Thistlewit played by Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton and Juno Temple respectively, were slightly too close to Irritating™ for my liking. But as I said, I doubt if anyone in a demographics meeting at Disney HQ had a picture of me on the flipchart as they were planning this out.

Maybe I'm getting old and soft, but the recent Frozen and now Maleficent have both managed to bring a fresh lick of paint to the Fairy Story genre. Well written and fantastic to look at, if you can get over the Disney Princess™ hurdle, there are great things here.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
Well, ish. It's not as consistently 'dark' as the trailer.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
For the most part, yes.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
That's not really for me to say, but it's got to come pretty damned close.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
Cinema for full effect (although the 3D is optional, obviously).

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Will I watch it again?
Yes, but probably not for a while. It's done its job.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
I think (think) I heard one low in the mix, but don't quote me on that.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
Is Sharlto Copley meant to be attempting that Scottish accent? Is that what the king was like in Sleeping Beauty? Is he taking the piss out of how bad the original one was? Because if that's the case, he's doing it very well…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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