Saturday 31 May 2014

Maleficent the Review (Horns, Cheekbones & All)

Written by Amanda Lee Yue Ping, Class of 2014, Junior 2 Cempaka

There’s no doubt when it comes to the “Which Disney Princess was the Best Role Model” list, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty hits rock bottom, closely followed by most probably Snow White - taking apples from strangers even after you were warned, seriously? Unless of course, you’re a sleep-deprived teenager (which teenager isn’t?), then Aurora’s sleeping patterns might just be understandable. Unlike us though, she doesn’t have to contend with homework and deadlines, so she also wins the most useless disney princess award hands down by falling asleep for ‘a hundred years’ and waiting for her Prince Charming to awaken her with true love’s kiss.

Thankfully over the years, Disney has changed their perceptions, creating heroines with more active roles who can save themselves and the world without having to wait for some guy in tights and puffed sleeves. But how many fairytales can they tell till the words start to run dry? Which is precisely why revisions of fairy tales are becoming increasingly common, not just in movies but books as well. As such, Disney has revised the old Sleeping Beauty tale, revealing an alternate route which takes us on a different path to the same destination we’ve been before, bringing to the table another side to the story as we once knew it. And so, Maleficent begins.

“Let us tell an old story anew and see how well you know it”

Note: the spoilers start here!
We all know Maleficent as the winged, horned evil fairy, whose eerie green magic and flame-breathing dragon brought an entire kingdom to its knees (more like to their pillows), over a mere slip in the invites. Whoever was in charge of sending out the invitations to the christening should be sacked for missing her out - or so we thought until now. In Maleficent, the story opens to show a magical, Pandora-esque area, filled with twinkly, glowing plants and mystical winged creatures called the Moors. A place where the mystical creatures go about by themselves, separated from the greed of the humans. There we see a young Maleficent fall “in love” with Stefan - a young man contending for the throne, armed with an atrocious Scottish accent that makes him sound like he’s got marbles in his mouth.

Here, Disney takes on a slightly different turn. One that their recent success, Frozen also took - the “this man is not my true love” path. That is to say, the more realistic path. As you’ll learn, it turns out Malificent crashed the party to exact revenge on King Horrible Accent (Stefan), who stole her wings away when she was younger through the lure of “true love”. So the innocent (yet still useless) Aurora bore the burden of her father’s actions, and was irreversibly cursed by Maleficent. Following that, Aurora was taken in by the faeries to a cottage till she was 16 whilst all the spindles in the kingdom were burnt - you know the drill. However the twist’s not even halfway over yet.

If anyone can pull Maleficent off, it’s Angelina Jolie. And from my point of view, she not only pulls it off, but just slays the role perfectly. With her so-sharp-it-can-cut-through-steel cheekbones, and big eyes that can go from glaring-green death stare to warm and teary emerald green, she’s a sight to see all decked out in shiny black leather from horn to toes in her role as the ruler and protector of the Moors. The backstory to how she got her pet raven, Diaval was rather weak, yet interesting to know anyhow. In between performing her cool, evil, magical feats to fend off the king’s attacks on the moor, and playing tricks on the slightly dim-witted faeries who look after Aurora, we witness Angelina Jolie come to care for the child - or “beastie” as she dubs her.

And the twist’s still not over. When Aurora eventually falls asleep under the spell, Maleficent storms the castle accompanied by her faithful Diaval - turned dragon. And though I’ve revealed enough already, I shall leave the biggest surprise for you to watch on the big screen. Or to google.

But I will tell you that the movie still portrays Aurora as a useless princess, if not even more so, whose only role was to flit around, all laughter and smiles to make people fall in love with her. For me, I did expect better from Maleficent. It had all the makings of what could have become a really great movie. However, the inconsistent tone, lag-y pace, weak storyline and mostly flat attempts at humour held it back. Angelina Jolie was the saving grace of Maleficent. Though portrayed in a movie that seems beneath her, Jolie’s performance was well-played. She was both subtle and imposing when needed to be, both playfully wicked and downright cold when the storyline called for it. Her droll acting stole the show away, and Aurora though not the main character, definitely paled in comparison. So should you watch it on the big screen? Maybe. After all, everyone still lives happily ever after.

Rating: 3/5 stars


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