IT’S EASY TO slag off Hollywood product, and I often do just that. So much of the time, its ideas are refried doggy-do, fart comedies that should come with real-odour scratch cards, and odious special effects monstrosities like the Transformers franchise.
But then, sometimes they do it right. I expected the worst of Maleficent, a “reimagining” of the Sleeping Beauty story from the perspective of the bad witch, except here the witch isn’t really bad at all, unless you really can’t stand even a hugely digitally reversioned Angelina Jolie. [No, I didn’t say ‘revirgined’, idiot].
So most of the story isn’t quite the Sleeping Beauty story so much as a prequel explaining the tragic tale of the witch, who started out as a gorgeous and naïve fairy (of all things!) and by the time she gets to cast her evil spell over the sweet princess, we feel like shouting: “Angie baby, go ahead, kill that sickly-sweet bitch! She had it coming! You deserve revenge!”
But we don’t of course, because most likely, there are children in the room.
Which reminds me, Maleficent is really meant for the little ones, or at least, the little ones that are sprouting into big ones and aren’t going to cry during the really scary bits. It’s PG rated so, you know, you can guide your child through all the menace and gratuitous evil and wrongdoing.
And that’s what makes it so good, because Maleficent is one of those movies that, while really geared towards those whose tiny minds are just waiting to be filled with invasive Hollywood conditioning, is also really entertaining – captivating, even – for the big people. What’s more, the story of unconscionable betrayal and brutality rings true, and will prepare the young ones for their futures. Real lives aren’t nearly as dramatic or fantastic as the ones portrayed here in stunning CG, but hang, any modern office can be just as traitorous and mentally violent.
Now, I often bemoan the extravagant use of CG in movies, especially ones that try and disguise non-existent plotlines and sucky characterisation with whizzbang acrobatic 3D perambulations, but where in a movie like the aforementioned Transformers any half intelligent human specimen becomes quickly bored by the endless, pointless computerjiggery, in Maleficent those effects are handled judiciously. The whole movie is cloaked in special effects, but they’re used to create an extraordinary world, and to effect a purpose, rather than bludgeon you to death by boredom as the result of some dull geek getting it on with a computer.
Sure, the plot is simple and the whole thing is based on a fairy tale and of course, that means suspending your disbelief for the movie’s duration. But then, suspension of disbelief is what most plots, and most fiction, is all about. The important thing is that, cynical bugger that I am, I was pretty much completely taken in, and goaded into going on a journey, which meant that Maleficent worked. So despite what you’ll read on aggregating rating sites, I reckon it’s a cracker.
While I’m sure Maleficent works well as a 3D feature, my 2008 television doesn’t support the medium, and wearing those goggles is a drag. Unlike some 3D-oriented movies however, those who are simply watching it on conventional HD won’t feel like they’re missing anything. The whole thing in its 2.40:1 aspect ratio looks stunning, and while the CG cloaks everything in somewhat unreal colour tones, that doesn’t detract from the whole. A combination of digital effects and makeup (presumably) make Jolie’s facial features look simply stunning.
The sound – both Howard Shore’s dramatic score and the dynamic and explosive SFX – is crisp, deep and I feel sorry for anyone watching this on an iPad-type device, because they’ll be missing half the fun.
Special features are the usual fluff – short ‘featurettes’ that could really be turned into a succinct 30-minute promo, as well as the almost always pointless ‘deleted scenes.’ GARY STEEL
Movie = 3.5/5
Sound = 4/5
Vision = 4/5