Film Review: Maleficent

I’m not exact sure what I was expecting from Maleficent. I never really bothered to pass it a glance when it was out in the cinema. It is, after all, a kids story. And they’re never any good? So I’m not exactly sure why after it’s DVD release I was suddenly drawn to it. But something drew me in and so into the “to watch” pile it went; having sneakily managed to convince Santa that a 3D Bluray copy was a fair Christmas treat.

What makes this sudden draw even more surprising is that as a film it seems to have divided wider opinion. The general consensus seeming to be that its strongest suit is the performance of Angelina Jolie and that after that, it wipes it’s feet but not much more. Once again though, I couldn’t help but remind myself, that it’s a kids movie. And that critics are usually maturing men with a Vitamin D deficiency!

Sitting down to watch it, the first thing that really hit me was just how badly affected by the darkening effect of 3D it is. Everything became muted, dull and I truly came close to reverting back to a 2D version. Especially as it also suffers from the horrible “magic eye” disconnection between the foreground and background I loathe so much. Through my home 3D set up at least, it loses a vast amount of the richness and warmth of colour that you feel a fantastical fairy tale world deserves. It really does distract from the movie.

Maleficent - Creatures - Elle Fanning

And that is such a shame because the world of make believe, of fairies and pixies, ancient woodlands come to life and the multitude of other creatures living within looks spectacularly designed. There is a real sense of the style of creature that Jim Henson created and throughout the film you can be forgiven for often thinking you’re looking at characters lifted straight from Labyrinth, with the dwarf Hoggle seeming cropping up quite regularly.

Because this tale is so character driven, so focused purely on Maleficent, you cannot help but look specifically at Angelina Jolie. I can see why so much emphasis has been placed on her performance when discussing this film. But for me, while her transformation is stunning with her hauntingly gaunt face complimenting her dark appearance perfectly, she somehow lacks the depth of voice to really convince. When she’s asked to perform emotionally and introspectively, she is outstanding and packs a real punch, conveying a real sense of fallibility and emotional fragility. But the times she has to project forcibly away, to command strength, I felt she just lacked that last degree of conviction. Exactly the same feeling I got from Julianne Moore in Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.

Angelina Jolie - Maleficent

And Jolie’s lack of persuasive depth carried over onto the soundtrack. There are some beautifully melodic pieces that glide effortlessly through the film but once again they lack that depth, velvety richness to really encompass you and draw you in. It was almost as if the base line needed turning up a few notches.

Over all I enjoyed Maleficent, it’s a clever and interesting view point on a classic story but sadly, it just fell a little bit short in its execution. And I’m not exactly sure where it’s meant to sit tonally. It’s a tale of love, conflict and right and wrong but how it positions those elements I found confusing. I never really found it funny, but then it’s not a comedic tale. Yet, as a film aimed at children, you can’t make it overly dark or twisted either. There’s too much good in its heart to make it scary.

The result of all this conflict as to what it wants to be, is that it ends up as nothing. It’s just a bit wishy-washy for want of a better expression. I truly think as a film it will drop happily into the fondly remembered but not often watched category. The type of film, my Mother would watch at 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon when there is nothing else on. But the type of film, I will leave on the shelf and chose Shrek instead when I want a slant on the world of fairytale.

It’s entertaining but always going to play second fiddle.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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