The reviewers, so far, seem to say that while Angelina Jolie kills it – slices, slaughters, and smears the blood on her lips – the rest of the film hits ukewarm. I’m inclined to agree, but that doesn’t matter overmuch. Less cartoonish scenery and sharper-drawn characters would have served the story well, but as long as Maleficent herself does justice to my beloved, everything else is immaterial. And she does. Oh hell, does she ever. Enough so that I sometimes wanted to whisk her out of this incongruous film and into a better realized one.
Danica and I saw the very first showing in Vermont. We both wore fae, filmy dresses and posed with the poster, and I’ll keep that ticket stub as long as I live. Regardless of my personal feelings on many aspects of the film, I’ll be seeing it many more times: first with Josh, who’d had to work, then with pagan friends who’ve made me promise to accompany them, then maybe once with just me. I want to take in this story from every angle. I waited sixteen years for this.
I’d hoped this latest addition to my tattoo crop would get me in for free. (In case this blurry close-up isn’t enough to go on, this is the back of my neck. Can we talk about what a beast neck tattoos are? It felt like all my baby hairs were being pulled and burned at once.)
Things that stood out (I’ll keep them as spoiler-free as possible):
- First and foremost, the film doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. It’s at its best when hewing to the simple yet utterly grimdark formula laid down by Grimm and co. The ancient story is rich enough without the window dressing of comic relief and random battles. Most scenes that don’t feature Maleficent read as extraneous out-of-genre bloat. Is my bias showing yet?
- But seriously, Angelina Jolie is luscious. For her relatively few lines, she signs, seals, and delivers an entire character. She steals scenes with a raised eyebrow. I would gladly pay to see this whole feature boiled down to a one-woman show. It basically is, anyway. Hell, I’d pay just to sit in her icy presence and twiddle my thumbs.
- Waaay too much CGI, but the cinematography is actually really lovely. Director Robert Stromberg was an Oscar-winning art director before making the switch, and it shows. I especially liked what he does with light – pivotal moments are often shown in silhouette against a darkening sky, which serves the fairy-tale element quite well.
- “Maleficent” is revealed to be her real name. I’ve always considered it more of a title, assuming she was christened something less imposing. Nope – childhood scenes show a little horned girl answering to “Maleficent”. Come on, really? It means “doing evil or harm“. The idea of actually bestowing that upon an infant is frankly stupid, and it took me out of the film. If she’d been initially introduced as something else, and we got to see the evolution of the title as her evil powers grew stronger, that would have been brilliant.
- This was seriously the most fetishtastic thing I have ever seen. I would love to see it recut as a trailer for a latex film. It would be too, too easy. Mal wears a straight-up catsuit at one point. (Anachronism: what’s that?) The line “I like you begging. Do it again” is also uttered. In a Disney film. Yeah, that happened.
- Those goddamn fairies. One reviewer sniffed that the actresses in question should “fire their agents”. Truer words have rarely been spoken. Their CGI is less “otherworldy” than “uncanny valley”, and their bickering (which is all they do) adds zilch to the plot. For what it’s worth, said actresses didn’t do a bad job. I was a fan of Imelda Staunton before, and that hasn’t changed. But there’s only so much you can do with roles both a) poorly written and b) completely out of place in their film.
- Did I mention that Angelina Jolie absolutely slays it? Maybe I’m not as straight as I think.