There was a point during Maleficent where I considered setting myself on fire. I felt that my fellow audience members deserved to see something entertaining that evening and the film certainly didn’t seem to have any interest in providing it. I checked my watch about ten minutes into the film due to an unrelenting desire to be anywhere else and I continued checking my watch every ten minutes for the 17 hour runtime. I emerged from the theater haggard and sleep deprived. I was mentally calculating how many meals I must have missed and how much I longed to see my family. In this delirious state I was informed that Maleficent has a runtime of 97 minutes. I still do not believe that fact.
Maleficent is a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story told from the point of view of the villain. Sort of. She’s now the hero and the villain. She’s the only one the filmmakers cared about even a little bit so she has to be all things to all people. The film begins with a young Maleficent that lives in the Moors with a wide range of fantastical creatures. She befriends a trespassing human from a nearby land and they begin a long term friendship that culminates in a betrayal/ rape analogy. Maleficent then spends about twenty minutes as the villain we remember before changing again because the plot requires it.
One of the major problems with this film is that the vast majority of the plot is described in narration rather than in any of the scenes. The film begins with narration, moves on to a scene, then begins another narration in an endless cycle so that no individual scene requires any semblance of plot. At no point do the filmmakers make any attempt to create anything that could be called an actual film.
Angelina Jolie has championed this project for years and she clearly saw something in the story that she connected with. Her performance is fine in a strangely nondescript way. That may be due to her character changing personalities so many times throughout the film. Jolie still has an amazing ability to act with her eyes and she can nuance her emotions with a glance. I felt bad for her because she gives her all in a truly bad film. She is let down at every step from script to direction to CGI.
Speaking of the CGI, Maleficent falls victim to the same problem as Alice in Wonderland and Oz: The Great and Powerful. A purely computerized environment never feels authentic. It never looks likes the actors are interacting with anything. Maleficent looks like a green screen nightmare with a nausea inducing love for anything that looks strange. All of this is not to say that the CGI is poorly designed. The CGI itself looks fine, but it never melds with the actors. There is a clear disconnect that never resolves itself.
I would like to make special mention of Sharlto Copley who plays the nemesis to Maleficent in the film. I was wowed by Copley’s performance in District 9 and was looking forward to his future roles. Unfortunately, Copley has been blazingly bad in everything since. He was awful in Elysium and Oldboy and he does nothing to regain any confidence here. It is time that casting directors take a hard look at these performances and reconsider their interest.
I could go on and on about all of the things I disliked about this movie, but the internet would run out of room. Suffice it to say that there was nothing in this film that I liked, and that I feel bad for Jolie who deserves a much better film around her. I would actually be interested in seeing the film that was advertised in the trailers. That film looked like a dark and gothic fairytale with a willingness to embrace its evil side. The finished film is nothing like the trailer lets on. I don’t think I can continue talking about Maleficent. I’ve given too much of my life to this film. I should’ve stopped after the two minute trailer. I probably would’ve been far more satisfied. Grade: D-