Disaster Films: Maleficent

Right now I’m on tour, performing theatre in schools around the country. Touring is a mixed blessing. It’s a great job, but you are away from home a lot. You have to get used to moving constantly and I can’t say living out of a suitcase is the most ideal of clothing situations. But on the plus side, I’m doing what I love, I’m travelling and I’m getting to meet a lot of really incredible kids.

Two weeks ago, while in my motel room, I discovered the joys of Foxtel Disney. So many classics at my fingertips! I watched Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Big Hero 6, Beauty and the Beast….I was in heaven.

And then Maleficent came on.

Maleficent trailer

Don’t be fooled by the smile. This movie is AWFUL.

When I heard about Maleficent, I was entirely indifferent. She was a cool villain but Sleeping Beauty wasn’t my favourite Disney movie and I hadn’t seen it in years. Plus, looking at the trailers it was painfully obvious that they were trying to rip off Wicked. As a result, I didn’t see it.
But last year I re-visited Sleeping Beauty and found myself quite enjoying it. Well, aspects of it anyway. The side characters are great fun, the fairies are wonderful, the climax is one of Disney’s best and Maleficent is a PHENOMENAL villain. She doesn’t have a lot of motivation, but the lengths she’ll go to seek revenge are so high you can’t help but be riveted. She’s given a perfect amount of air time. So why did she need her own film?
Short answer, she didn’t.
Long answer….? Well, I advise you to get comfortable. There’s a fair bit to talk about.

And by the way, there will be spoilers.

wasteofcelluloid.jpg

God shoot me. What a waste of celluloid.

In the film, Maleficent is given a backstory that will likely send any fan of the original animated film into a foaming rage. Or maybe that was just me. Anyway, apparently as a child Maleficent lived in the forest on the edge of an evil kingdom (why is it evil? Never explained. Does it have any real impact or necessity to the story? Nope). She had wings and fell in love with a young boy named Stefan. Years later, Stefan has become corrupt with ambition (you’re not fooling me, movie. I know he’s going to grow up to be Aurora’s father and I am spoiling that with no shame whatsoever) and Maleficent is the official guardian of the Moors. Stefan is told if he kills Maleficent he will take the throne. Apparently this is all the reason he needs to kill the woman he loved for years, but he can’t bring himself to do it and instead cuts off her wings. This scene is meant to be subtle in its symbolism, but it’s about as subtle as a stab in the eye with a salad fork. Have fun explaining that scene to your kids.
Stefan takes power, and you know what happens next. He doesn’t invite Maleficent to the christening out of spite (strike one in continuity, originally it was just an oversight), she turns up and curses the baby, the three fairies take the baby into hiding, you know it.

The scene at the christening is so rife with idiotic mistakes I can only do one of my lists.

  1. The three fairies were Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. Not Knotgrass, Thistlewit and Flittle.
  2. Flora and Fauna gave Aurora the gifts of beauty and song, not whatever they gave her in the remake.
  3. Maleficent curses the baby to DIE when she pricks her finger, not fall asleep
  4. Merryweather was the fairy who softened the curse from death to sleeping until true love’s kiss.
  5. Maleficent’s raven is actually a human? ….What?

That’s just the christening scene. What follows is an affront to art itself.
Apparently Maleficent ALWAYS knows where Aurora is. She follows her around and gains Aurora’s trust. They actually have a friendship. Eventually Maleficent doesn’t want the girl to die and tries to revoke the curse, then cause Prince Phillip to kiss her.
Do I even need to explain why this is beyond stupid?

Maleficent isn’t the only character who got shredded to pieces in this movie. Everyone did. Especially the fairies.

maleficent-fairies

Holy Tinkerbell, Disney. What were you thinking?

In Sleeping Beauty, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather are some of the most likeable comedic characters the studio has ever produced. They’re memorable, unique and a lot of fun. They get plenty of laughs, but they also have a lot of intelligence, resourcefulness and bravery.
Here, Knotgrass, Thistlewit and Flittle (ugh!) are dumber than a pile of bricks. They spend most of the film bickering, getting into fistfights and straight up neglecting the kid they’re supposed to be protecting. Because that’s what we all wanted to see, right? The three fairies as idiotic morons with juvenile antics bordering on teenage girl drama. Good grief, this is some of the worst character development I have ever seen. It’s downright insulting to the original film. And there is absolutely no reason for it.

In Sleeping Beauty, King Stefan and King Hubert were really charming. In Maleficent, King Hubert doesn’t even exist and Stefan is just a run of the mill douchebag. To make things worse, actor Sharlto Copley’s performance reminds me of a train wreck at an excruciatingly slow pace.

I’ve never been president of the Princess Aurora Fan Club and the way she’s portrayed here doesn’t help. If anything, I dislike the character more. She keeps having ‘girl talk’ conversations with Maleficent and stupidly believes Maleficent to be her fairy godmother.

comparison

Because that’s totally what I would think too.

Of course, she finds out the truth and runs away in fear, but as soon as she wakes up, she somehow doesn’t care that Maleficent tried to doom her to a fate worse than death. She smiles sweetly and even helps to take down her own father.
Oh, and with the whole ‘true love’s kiss’? Yeah, they try to put a stupid twist on that too. I won’t spoil it here but let’s just say you can see it doing the fan dance from a mile off. It’s also stupid beyond all reason.

This movie, as a whole, is so unnecessary it’s laughable. Like Cars 2, Cars 3, or Monster’s UniversityMaleficent didn’t need to be made. It’s trying to be Wicked without trying anything new or creative. On the contrary, it seems hell bent on extracting anything we liked about these characters to begin with. We don’t need to see a good Maleficent. She’s a wonderful villain. The three fairies were brilliant, they don’t need to be degraded to this point. The kings were fun, why make him the villain?
Wicked worked because it was carefully constructed. It was well written. It had great characters to disguise any flaws in the story. The music was wonderful and to be fair, it was pretty much the first time we’d seen anything like it. Taking a story we thought we knew and giving us a fresh perspective was something that hadn’t really been done before. But it wasn’t trying to change Wizard of Oz. It was paying homage to the imagination and wonder of a classic and it knew exactly where to focus the drama and comedy. Maleficent doesn’t do this. It’s dark, depressing, pretty insulting to the original and overall just trying to cash in on what Wicked did so well.
But what shocked me the most was when the credits started rolling. At first, this was cause for momentary celebration until the writer was named.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the screenwriter for Maleficent was Linda Woolverton, the writer of Beauty and the Beast, arguably Disney’s best animated fairytale, and The Lion King. The Lion King!!!!

alice-face-palm-featured

She also wrote Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. What else is there to say?

How did she sink to this level? She goes from writing Disney’s finest, to sinking below the bottom of the barrel. What happened? How did this script ever get approved without someone saying “Hang on, are we taking a blowtorch to a classic?” I’ll never know. Some mysteries in life are best left unsolved.

I probably hate this movie a lot more than it deserves. I can’t say it’s a bad influence or saying anything morally wrong. I just really can’t stand it when Hollywood comes along and tries to butcher a really great film. Especially when it does well commercially because it just encourages the trend of making worse and worse entertainment.

Sadly, Maleficent’s success at the box office has led to the announcement of a sequel. This means once again, the Mistress of All Evil is going to be whitewashed into a misunderstood antihero. And I’m going to be sitting at home, drinking champagne, watching Sleeping Beauty and seeing Maleficent as she should be portrayed.

And I advise you all to do the same.

8 thoughts on “Disaster Films: Maleficent

  1. Pingback: Date with Disney | AbStar921 – Musical Critic

  2. Daniel

    Linda Woolverton also wrote the worst Alice in Wonderland movie ever made; the one directed by Tim Burton. That one also got a sequel, and somehow a sequel for this atrocity got greenlit as well.

    Man, we are living in a world full of idiots. I LOVED your review on Love Never Dies btw.

    Reply
    1. AbStar921 Post author

      She wrote those two? I did not know that. Why Linda, why?

      Thanks for your kind words on my Paint Never Dries review. I still despise that show. And still occasionally get the odd bit of hate mail for that scathing review as well. I rescind none of it. And regret none of it. 🙂

      Reply
      1. Daniel

        Because Linda is a feminazi and has no shame about her bad writing. I mean really, if you think about it, Maleficent is insulting not only to men, but to women as well. It shoots itself in the foot trying to make the men look bad. You’re absolutely right, Maleficent didn’t need her own movie, but if you were going to make it…keep her evil. Is that so much to ask? She doesn’t even turn into a dragon! I know there were people who wanted to at least see THAT (me included), and they wouldn’t give it to us.

      2. AbStar921 Post author

        There was NOTHING good about this movie. And you’re right, both genders were given a major disservice. I don’t understand how she can go from Beauty and the Beast, arguably the best hand-drawn animated movie ever made to this?
        Maleficent’s name means evil. She’s the mistress of all evil. There is not one single reason she should be a sympathetic character. It just doesn’t add up. And where the hell was that dragon?

  3. Daniel

    There was a dragon but it wasn’t Maleficent.

    Linda Woolverton was the in a group of writers for Beauty and the Beast and The Lion KIng, and I’m willing to bet money that any ideas she put forth were either discarded or highly improved upon.

    I would have liked Maleficent to start out as a neutral character, with of course a different name (maybe Carabosse from the ballet? It would have been another sort of inspiration Disney took from it, besides the name of the Sleeping Beauty princess and some of the music). I’m not exactly sure what I would have liked the story to be, but at some point I would have liked to see Carabosse slowly begin her descent to the dark side, albeit in a unique way that hasn’t been seen much before, and when she passes the point of no return, THAT’S when she becomes Maleficent. I mean, it’s one thing to give a villain “layers” or “gray areas” or complexity and make them more three-dimensional, or to show their point of view, or even to give them a backstory that shows they weren’t ALWAYS evil (and show the progression of how they became evil).

    But I really HATE it when stories or movies take a villain and re-interpret them as being “victims” who were never evil at ALL! That just totally defeats the point of the character! Likewise, it’s fine to also give the “good guys” gray areas, and show that they have their own prejudices, or that everything they did wasn’t perfect. But NOT to say “the good guys were really EVIL!” It really annoys me. Like, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather could have known Maleficent in her “good” days” and maybe made some mistakes in the way they interacted with her. Maybe even detrimental mistakes, depending on which story could have been told. But that wouldn’t have made them terrible people.

    When I first heard about Maleficent, I had hoped they wouldn’t add Sleeping Beauty’s plot to the movie. I wanted to see only Maleficent’s backstory and how she became evil. We got the opposite. Disney, you want to talk about missing an opportunity? How about fucking up not only your chance to show how The Mistress of All Evil became your most iconic villain, but also to remake Sleeping Beauty into live action? You could have told us a really compelling story, keeping everyone in character but showing us some new development we’d never seen before, AND leave us with a cliffhanger for the next movie? If you wanted a sequel to this movie….why not THIS?????

    *Sigh.

    Reply

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