Sunday, July 6, 2014

5x5 Movie Review: Maleficient = Magnificent

Maleficent - directed by Robert Stromberg, starring Angelina Jolie, Disney Studios

1. I saw Angelina Jolie in the 1998 film Playing by Heart, in which she delivered one of my top ten favorite scenes from all movies and I was convinced that she was one of the greatest actresses of all time. I liked her as much in this as I did after seeing that, despite everything that has happened in between.

2. Revisiting and revising fairy tales is all the rage right now, from comics' Fables to television's Once Upon a Time, and Maleficent could easily be placed on that band wagon. The film has such intelligence and grace, and was so well-written, that it rises above the merely trendy and stands on its own as a great film.

3. The writing has some wonderful, delicate touches. Philip must pass through a wall of thorns to be joined with the Sleeping Beauty and true love's kiss is all that can break the curse, but as Alan Moore wrote of Batman's world in the introduction to Dark Knight Returns, "everything is exactly the same, except for the fact that it's totally different."

4. The only false note in the whole affair for me was the voice-over narration, of which I could have done with a lot less. I understand its purpose in the film's ethos, I think, and it did help keep the running time down to 97 minutes (am I the only one tired of two-and-a-half hour movies becoming routine?), but at times it seemed superfluous.

5. On the other hand, the filmmakers showed great restraint with the CGI; Peter Jackson and other should take note. Fantasy lands and the clash of armies are wonderful and wondrous when they are done well, but all too often enough is not enough and the film piles on more creatures and effects that the imaginary landscapes can even support. This film paints its canvas with a wonderful, fey world and harsh iron kingdom, but never lets the fantastical get in the way of the human and the real. We remain focused on the characters, and on Jolie in particular, and that is what you really want to see, anyway.

So, go see it...

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