Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"Maleficent" (2014)

I thought this was a life action film? In the new world of computer animation, we like to pretend don’t we?

Maleficent is a little too “on the nose” in its many messages for my taste, but it is a very good, entertaining film. I liked the director’s world-building, as seen in “Oz the Great and Powerful,” and this film is similar in its aesthetic as well as its morality play approach to storytelling. And, since it is a retelling of a children’s story, it feels right.

Among the many “lessons” we have things ranging from the (silly) scene in the beginning where Maleficent return’s the stolen jewel to the river, to much more serious (and traumatic) issues like the moment where Stefan drugs her and robs her of her wings. Most have focused on the feminist related issues in this reimagining of the story, and they really are interesting and well-told. However, I was much more pleased with another aspect of this story.

I have liked the way that Disney has reevaluated its old, stand-by message that appeared in nearly all of their old movies. The “True Love” worldview that told countless numbers of girls that they needed a man to come rescue and take care of them to find happiness and fulfillment in life. Here, we get that nonsense clearly turned on its head whit the (uncomfortable) scene where the fairies try to have a total stranger kiss a (for all practical purposes, drugged) Aurora. It does not work.

Instead, we get to see Maleficent’s growing motherly affections for the girl fulfill the cure. And this is more than just a predictable motherly, true love. We have seen Maleficent go from hating a baby as an extension of an evil man who hurt her, to truly caring for a girl she has watched grow into a wonderful, joyful girl.

Some reviews have complained that this live action remake fell short in ways that seem to hinge on it not being a slavish, faithful remake of the animated classic. That film is a masterwork of the art form, and did not need to be retold. We still have the original. The changes made in this version are good, and interesting enough to merit a watch, or even a few.

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