Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! - Maleficent (Movie Review)

By Freda Cooper 28.05.2014 2

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! - Maleficent (Movie Review)

Maleficent (UK Rating: 12A)

Since the launch of Lana del Rey's re-working of Once Upon a Dream at the Grammy Awards early in the year, there's been an almost constant drip-feed of trailers, pictures and posters from Disney's Maleficent. All the pre-publicity has been about the film's star, Angelina Jolie, and her magnificent horns, but at long last, it's here and audiences can judge for themselves whether what is billed as the back-story to Sleeping Beauty is everything it's crack up to be. Lights, Camera, Action! star Freda Cooper polishes a rather suspicious looking apple as she prepares to reveal all on this Disney epic, which hits UK cinemas this week.
Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! - Maleficent (Movie Review)

As a young fairy, Malificent (Angelina Jolie) defends the moors where she lives from the avarice of the human kingdom and, in particular, its king. Her efforts are rewarded by betrayal at the hands of the human she loves and, with her heart turned to stone and, driven by revenge, she places an irrevocable curse on the new king's baby, Aurora. As the child grows, Maleficent discovers that she might not be as hard hearted as she originally thought.

From that, it's pretty clear that there's more to the film than simply a back story: it goes to the heart of the fairytale as well, but with a tweak or two. The idea is to show how Maleficent continued to influence it after she pronounced her curse.

That curse, of course, is one of the big moments of the film and Maleficent delivers it in style, surrounded by a massive bright green hue. However, the treatment it's given is so big that the basis of the curse - Aurora pricking her finger on a spindle - sounds almost trivial. The consequences, of course, are another matter.

The curse scene, inevitably, makes use of CGI and 3D, although this is another instance of a film where those elements seem to be there because they are expected, not because they make a creative contribution. There are, thankfully, several exceptions, which make it worthwhile. Maleficent's flying sequences literally soar, the battle scene where the people of the moors take on the human king's army is exciting and fast moving, and the final battle in the castle is impressive. They highlight something else as well - this isn't so much a fairy story as a fantasy/fairytale hybrid; more Bilbo than Brothers Grimm.

If those scenes make good use of CGI, then there's a trio of characters that stand out like a sore thumb - or should that be sore finger? Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) is looked after by three pixies that first appear flitting around on buzzing little wings. They are played by a trio of good actresses - Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple - but the CGI boffins have done them no favours. If anything, it looks like they have been created by a totally different, and markedly inferior, team as they are heavy handed and out of proportion. They are less than satisfactory as characters as well: clearly meant to provide the comic relief but, in fact, just proving to be downright irritating.

Image for Feature | Lights, Camera, Action! - Maleficent (Movie Review)

While those constitute the downside, the upside is most definitely Jolie. Put simply, it's her film and she dominates it from her first moment on screen. Her appearance is stunning: the cheekbones are to die for, her wings spectacular and, with the bright red lips and striking horns, she looks magnificent. Her character is equally strong, with Jolie playing the more evil moments with lip-smacking relish, while making it apparent that there is much more to Maleficent than a stone cold heart.

With such a flamboyant character at its heart, Elle Fanning appears to have come off second best by landing the role of Princess Aurora. Goodies are always less interesting than villains, right? It is to her credit, then, that she manages to make the princess something more than an embodiment of virtue. Yes, she's trusting and innocent, but there's strength and courage there as well.

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10
Maleficent has its faults but, taken as a whole, it delivers as a strong, engaging piece of family entertainment. It gives the audience more than just the main character's back-story and, while the film very much belongs to Angelina Jolie, it manages to avoid being simply a star vehicle by giving her a role to seriously get her brilliantly white teeth into. Jolie's casting is perfect, both for the part and for Disney.

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Definitely excited about this one - cheap, early Saturday morning tickets ahoy, methinks! Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

My wife and I watched this last night, and she was so bored all the way through. For me, it had moments of 'ooh's and 'ahh's but there wasn't much substance to it all in the end, and I went away with barely any...anything! You know that feeling, that buzz, when coming away from a great film? Nothing from this.

5 or 6/10 for me.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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