CPH Post

Film reviews

Maladjusted Malady let down by malnourished script


Angelina attempts to hide her very obviously photoshopped cheek bones (Photo: Disney)

May 30, 2014
19:00

by Mark Walker


Thundering into cinemas this week is the latest in a recent trend of live-action ‘reimagined’ fairy-tales that come brimming with CGI and apparently seek to emulate Lord Of The Rings -type battle scenes, replete with armour and medieval weaponry (see Hansel & Gretel or Snow White and The Huntsmen). 

Maleficent has many things going for it – primarily Jolie, whose striking, unearthly features are perfectly cast and beyond that, a beloved narrative base upon which to build and, consequently, a ready-made audience. 

The VFX and animation are of course first rate, yet all of these elements struggle to cohere, failing to settle into an aesthetic and dramatic uniformity. 

Benificent?
When we first meet Maleficent, the memorable embodiment of feminine evil from Disney’s animated feature Sleeping Beauty (1959), she is not yet the menace we expect. 

In fact, she’s been retconned as a sweet-faced fairy, all wide-eyed and full of curiosity. 

She was, in her formative years, also the proud owner of a pair of feathered wings that enabled her to soar over her domain and create a sonic boom to strike fear into the hearts of men. 

Before such measures became necessary however, there came a young prince who had strayed from the world of men into that of the fairies and thus alerted Maleficent of his presence. 

Kings vs fairies
Maleficent and the prince become fast friends and predictably fall in love. His royal duties come between the pair, but they never forget each other. 

Years later, when the boy’s father, the king of men, attempts an invasion of the fairies domain, Maleficent successfully defends her home but makes herself the king’s sworn enemy. 

The king then promises that the man who slays this fairy shall become his heir. The prince finds himself in an impossible situation, suddenly having to compete for his rightful place on the throne. 

Without alluding to the outcome of this first narrative pinch, it is, of course, that same prince who later becomes king and fathers a daughter – Aurora, known to us as Sleeping Beauty. 

Trying to do too much
Jolie’s physical appearance, of near-preternatural refinement is often tempered by an air of femme fatale, and this qualifies her ten-fold for this kind of role – it’s hard to think of anyone capable of filling her shoes. 

Less strong is her voice-work. Her menacing RP English is convincing enough, but it differs distractedly from scene to scene. 

There’s also something inconsistent about that lithe, graceful, malevolent presence from Sleeping Beauty suddenly yelling war-cries (‘ye shall not pass!’ etc) at the armies of men – the tone seems off. 

Similarly her spells are often bellowed. Shouldn’t the breathy menace simply purr and be heard by all?

There’s certainly enjoyment to be derived from the way our expectations of this familiar tale are constantly bested by a new perspective on this old icon. 

Sadly though, by the time the credits roll, we’re left with a frustrating sense of what might have been: a likely stellar story pitch and a potentially timeless central performance have both been thwarted by clumsy, uninspired direction (of actors in particular) and a lacklustre script, full of yawning holes.


Maleficent
★★★☆☆☆

Dir: Robert Stromberg
US, Fantasy, 2014, 97 mins

Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Imelda Staunton, Sam Riley

Premiered May 29
Playing nationwide

 




Latest Comments

Wonder what the relevans of this survey is???? Who needs to be looking good...

(Alis Nelly Bøtcher Jensen on July 25, 2014 10:22)

My name is Wendy Brimm , i am from Vegas here in united state, i wish to tell...

(Wandy Brimm on July 25, 2014 08:33)

I'm one of those 'idiots' who can't (physically) tolerate smoking (and the...

(Scott Curland Chase on July 25, 2014 08:28)

With a plotline like this, an American remake will probably end up something...

(Scott Curland Chase on July 25, 2014 08:13)

Only the chosen one can see the truth

(Nurul Kefftya on July 25, 2014 05:50)

It's been going on for THOUSANDS OF YEARS!!! When we finally stop trying to...

(Allan Jones on July 25, 2014 04:14)

About time... I guess Danes are sick and tired of welfare sucking immigrants...

(Alex DeGre?t on July 25, 2014 00:19)

WTF?

(Lorraine Healy on July 24, 2014 23:44)

Hang 'em high.

(July 24, 2014 16:26)

I hope Denmark controls their program better than Canada - we too allow in...

(Dave Huntley on July 24, 2014 14:09)