By: Bryan Montgomery
Review: 5.5 out of 10
Hot off the trails of a slew of Snow White live-action remakes two years ago, Disney throws their hats into the ring with a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, putting the focus on the villain of said film with strong results in this summer’s first Disney film, Maleficent. Angelina Jolie, playing the infamous villain, does a strong job playing the role, but unfortunately cannot keep a sinking ship afloat, as the movie is unable to overcome a brisk running time that doesn’t allow the plot to breathe, only furthered by the damaging lack of a supporting cast and the importance laid upon the visual style of the film.
A fairy living in the Moors, a magical land, Maleficent (Jolie) is betrayed by Stefan (Sharlto Copley), a power-hungry human who has dreams for the throne, leaving her without her magical wings and immensely vengeful towards Stefan and the human race. Placing a curse on Stefan’s first daughter, Aurora (Elle Fanning), Maleficent quickly begins to learn the difference between being a hero and letting revenge take over all her ambitions.
In the eyes of the studio, this film would either be made or broken judging by the performance of Jolie. Luckily, the venerable actress comes through in droves, playing the character to an immensely strong degree and becoming the de facto real-life portrayal of the classic antagonist. Sam Riley does a manageable job portraying Diaval, Maleficent’s reliable, shape-shifting raven, but ultimately it is up to Jolie to either make or break the movie, and she does so to a very successful degree.
Aside from Jolie, the key component of Maleficent is the special effects offered in the film. A visually striking film, the folks at Disney truly brought out all the stops for their first big movie of the summer, especially when the walking trees come into play, who almost take over the film as they are highlighted during each of the mass-scale set pieces, and do their part to contribute to the plot of the film.
Unfortunately, the best-looking piece of Maleficent is also its greatest detractor; the movie often decides to take precedence over the visual attractiveness of the film rather than making a conscientious effort to what is happening on screen. Jolie can only do so much to keep the film going, but when so much is being put on the visuals rather than the plot, it is hard to pay attention, let alone care, about the plot.
This problem is that the plot is only allowed 80 minutes of screen time to really flesh out all the details, so as a result, the entirety of Maleficent feels forced out the door in order to give the special effects more time to wow the audience. With a movie that is so centered on one character, the worst decision that the filmmakers could make would be to not allow those around the titular character to do their job.
Unfortunately, due to poor production choices, even the immensely talented Copley is forced into monotony, with viewers expected to believe his rapid and unexplained descent into darkness with little backing or motive. It’s unfortunate due to the immense talent on the cast, but the wasted potential is prevalent throughout the movie’s immensely brisk runtime.
An exercise in style over substance, Maleficent wastes an incredible lead in a convoluted plot, wasted supporting cast and an overabundance of visual effects which ultimately proves that the film is a complete misfire. It’s great to look at and had great potential with the story involved and the twists inherent in this re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, but ultimately Maleficent falls short despite an incredibly strong performance by Jolie.