Friday, June 20, 2014

3 Short Paragraphs: Maleficent

2014, Robert Stromberg -- cinema

A few things to say right off the bat. It's Mal-E-ficent, not Mal-I-ficint as so many TV news programs were misspelling and mispronouncing. I have no childhood attachment to the original character, but if you want to see her character done better in live action, see Susan Sarandon in Enchanted. If you see this all because you think Angelina is hot, this is probably not the movie to see. No, not me. I do not find her remotely attractive in her current incarnation. I was here for the visual effects and Sharlto Copley as the King. For a first time director with over 90 visual effects credits under his belt, he did a masterful looking job. Just wish I had enjoyed the movie more.

Maleficent is the ruler of The Moors, the extension of faerie that sits next to a traditional human (i.e. white, euro) kingdom. Think the sweeping vistas of Chinese wuxia films combined with the denizens of a Brian Froud painting. She is so cute as a child, all raven wing and dragon horned with those big manga eyes and an absolute love of the world. She has been warned about humans but all it takes is one innocent acting thief (in fae worlds, river stones are priceless gems) to steal her heart. Unfortunately, as he grows, so grows his ambition and when they are in their 20s, he returns to The Moors to steal not her heart but her life, so he can become King. He is tortured about it so he second guesses and takes her her wings. That is an injury to her soul as well as a violation of her body, and turns her bright, gold magic into something putrid, green and dark. I won't go so far as saying evil, for she never really is.

And honestly, while I was not attached to the Bad Guy original character, it really did diminish her in this movie. She's misunderstood and even that's stretching it -- we completely understand and probably root for her green magic acts. We spend most of the movie watching her play Godmother to Sleeping Beauty, who only really sleeps briefly. We see motherly devotion, love lost and misplaced kindness. by the time we get to see her with her agro all riled up, I was bored. I get it, Angelina is the current Mother Goddess figure to the media, a patron of all things matronly. But Maleficent is also a very boring spurned lover. She wants nothing more than to have revenge on the boy who spurned her and satisfies herself by becoming proxy mother to his daughter, more loved than she loves her own father.  And all of Angelina's grace and cheekbones and equine movements were not befitting Queen of the Faeries for me; she needed to be a bit more rough around the "lives in a swamp" edges. And in the end, it all sums up that Maleficent finds fulfilment not through getting the boy (or even getting revenge) but by bequeathing her kingdom to her surrogate daughter. I wonder how the rest of the faeries felt about that, or were they just happy the sulkly green lighting was gone?