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Sigh. You know, I told myself if I just stuck my head in the sand and pretended that this wasn’t happening everyone involved would gradually realise just how ill advised the whole endeavour is and this movie would quietly die like the sequel to 7even where Morgan Freeman’s character has psychic powers or the live action Akira remake with white actors. But no, this thing is apparently happening and what’s more Disney have released a trailer that proves once and for all that their marketing department is staffed by wizards who can make anything look good. Sorry, that sounds unfair and I know any movie should only be judged after it’s actually been released but…I have serious reservations about this. Now, granted, after seeing the trailer I am a little more optimistic for reasons that I’ll get into in a bit but firstly let me just point out that the basic logic behind this movie is flawed. That logic is as follows:
1) We need to make a movie about a character that people love.
2) People love Maleficent.
3) We should…what, you want me to spell it out?
Now, Maleficent is undoubtedly a fantastic character but it’s more complicated than that. She is specifically, a fantastic antagonist. Saying that a great villain will make a great leading character is like saying an astronaut is the perfect guy to perform your heart operation. It’s a completely different skill set. Villains, by and large, occupy less screen time than heroes. A villain is someone who you’re glad when they show up, do something outrageous and cool and then vanish again. A good protagonist is someone you have to be willing to spend two hours with. Villains are great in small doses, but the larger than life traits that make them so entertaining tend to get really wearying after too long. Of course, that’s assuming that this movie is just Maleficent as she was depicted in Sleeping Beauty but for two hours. It won’t be. Maleficent in the original doesn’t have an arc, her character progression in the movie is evil, evil, evil, evil, dragon. So of course this movie is instead going to make her an anti-hero, a troubled misunderstood figure whose motivations we will be able to understand and sympathise with through seeing her backstory and all the horrible things that happened to maker her who she is. This approach, historically speaking, has killed more awesome movie villains than cliffs and Arnold Schwarzenegger combined.
This is how..
Now, if I’m wrong I will happily eat my words. I’m just saying I got history on my side. Okay, so let’s take a look at the trailer.
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Alright, so here are my thoughts in order.
- Angelina Jolie’s eternal status at the top of the A-List has baffled me for some time. Not that she’s bad, but surely you should have to have some critically/financially successful movies under your belt before they crown you Queen of Hollywood. Seriously, look at her filmography and find something that you’d give more than three stars. Having said that, that is an absolutely phenomenal impersonation of Eleanor Audley she’s doing, almost to the point where I’m not entirely sure they didn’t just dub some dialogue from the original movie over her. Also that smile she flashes is a good sign. Jolie looks like she’s having a blast. Above all, Maleficent should enjoy being evil.
- Gotta say, loving Lana Del Ray’s dreamy, sinister rendition of Once Upon a Dream. Love the atmosphere.
- Three fairies hovering by a crib while Maleficent stalks through the court. These aren’t Flora, Fauna and Merryweather even though they’re colour coded the same. According to wikipedia the fairies are Thistlewit, Knotgrass and Flittle and are all played by actresses in their twenties. Godammit, I loved that the heroes of the original movie were three dumpy middle aged women. Where else do you see that?
- Maleficent standing with arms raised, wreathed in green flame and vanishing from the court. So it looks like we’re going to get a pretty faithful recreation of the cursing scene.
- “NOW FIND OUT THE TRUTH” Ohhhh…first big warning sign. If they think that we’re actually going to accept this as a definitive take on the story that supplants the original then this ship is crewed by fools and madmen.
- Okay, now this is different. Maleficent surpises Briar Rose in the woods, blows some sleeping gunk on her and then walks through the moonlit forest with the unconscious body floating behind her. Gotta say, it’s an eerie, beautiful image. Again, Del Ray’s vocals really setting the “dark fairytale” tone.
- King Stefan stabbing a table. Why is he stabbing a table? Maleficent controls the trees. Trees are made of wood. Clearly, this table is a spy.
A green clad Maleficent strolling through a field. Part of me really hopes that this movie ends with the reveal that Maleficent is actually Girl Loki and that this is all just a teaser for Avengers 3. Hey, they’re both owned by Disney, you can’t say it’s not possible.
- If I were to guess I’d say this is part of Maleficent’s origin. The movie seems to be playing up her nature powers, showing lots of sentient tree monsters and such. If I were to guess, Maleficent starts off with a naturey/defender of the forest kind of schtick, hence the green duds, and then King Philip does something to fuck with nature’s balance or whatever forcing her to go all emo and black. Which sounds pretty awful and again, why the character works better as a villain and not a protagonist.
- Okay, seriously, what is up with her cheekbones? She looks like she swallowed a china plate.
- The CGI at least, is going to look amazing. In fact, we can at least rest assured that this will be a very pretty movie.
- The old knight with a beard is so dead.
- “There is evil in this world. Hatred. And revenge.” Ohhhh stop that right now. That looks like Maleficent imparting some motherly advice to Briar Rose. That looks like Maleficent and Briar Rose bonding over a campfire. That looks like the movie is actually setting up that Maleficent secretly cares for Briar Rose. That looks like the still beating heart of Sleeping Beauty getting ripped out and stamped on the dirt. That looks like I’m gonna have to get mah pitchfork.
- Okay, the little hurt “oh” followed by the pscyho laugh has me convinced that if nothing else, Jolie is going to kill the role.
So, colour me cautiously pessimistic. I still think that the basic concept of the movie is fails the smell test but there’s a lot in the trailer to give me pause. I’m certainly less sure now that it’s going to completely suck than I was. So, good job Disney marketing team. Good job. You have moved the dial in the right direction. Now if you could stop making me think that your awesome full length musical returns to form are going to be awful, weak-ass Dreamworks ripoffs, that’d be lovely.