Saturday, July 12, 2014

Maleficent in Theaters Now (but barely!)

I almost don't know what to say about Maleficent (starring a fabulous Angelina Jolie) except, "Go watch it." To reveal anything about the plot would be spoiling, and I'm impressed at how well the trailers hid the details of the story. If you enjoy fairy tales, especially retold fairy tales, don't miss this one.

Do you think I'm exaggerating? Is my praise too high? Perhaps. I don't think everyone will love this movie. If you like realism and cynicism (traits that define many movies today, particularly Oscar winners), the catharsis of tragedy, and Grimm-style fairy tales where not everything works out so well for the heroes, you might not appreciate this retelling. You might think it too neat, too perfect, too clean, too upbeat. Sure, it's not overly complicated. It's simply a beautiful fairy tale in a lush setting with fun, fantastical characters and the age-old conflict of good versus evil. It's traditional, but in its reimagined form, it's surprising--in the best sort of way.

You've probably seen the trailers, and if you are at all familiar with Disney fairy tales, you know the character of Maleficent well. She's the villain of Sleeping Beauty's tale. She curses the baby and later appears as a dragon before being vanquished. She's quite utterly evil, not an ounce of heart in her. That's the old tale. This one delves a bit more into Maleficent's backstory. What might possibly give rise to such evil in a person?

While certain people I know ( know who you are) are rather fascinated with Maleficent as a character, I was more uncertain about the movie. I saw the trailers and was interested enough. I'm into complicated characters, and the TV show Once Upon a Time has done a great job of creating some really interesting villains who aren't all bad to the core, characters who start out with some good in them and who one hopes by the end might be redeemed, not undone. That's one direction I thought this movie could go, and I was interested in seeing that, though unsure of what the outcome might be. As for where it actually went, I will not say.

Honestly, when I saw the trailers and then heard what the movie was rated (only PG), I was flabbergasted. Maleficent is a scary villain, and I couldn't believe anyone in this day and age wouldn't take advantage of that fact to create some really scary special effects. Having seen it, I'm still surprised at the rating, but at the same time, I understand it. With our rating system, what do you rate a movie that doesn't have sex or language and isn't even all that violent? There were certainly a few scary parts (though not like you'd expect), bits of thematic darkness and a couple CGI-enhanced battles. But compared to what it could have been, I suppose it was rather tame. I wouldn't take my four-year-old to it (though he'd probably love it more than I'd want him to), but a ten-year-old? Eight-year-old? I guess it depends on the kid.

I wish I could say more about the story (and about its themes) because there's so much there to talk about. But I want you to be as surprised as I was. I have to say one thing, and it's almost SPOILING to do so. You've been warned. Just this: it's not what you're expecting. Even in this review, I've tried to give nothing away but what you already know, perhaps even mislead you once or twice. But if you are wary about going to a movie starring a villain, there's less need for caution than you think. I loved it, and I don't understand the fascination with Maleficent. (Sorry, You Know Who!) I'm curious to know what the villain's fans think of this movie. They might have a different reaction than I do, but I'm betting that if they love the character of Maleficent (weirdos!), they love good old fairy tales and will love this one, whatever their expectations are.

I barely saw this in the theater but am glad that I did. There was an epic quality to it that the big screen enhanced. If you have a chance, see it in theaters before it's gone. Otherwise, be sure to look it up on DVD. It makes more sense than Snow White and the Huntsman, is as fun as Jack the Giant Slayer (Oooooh, I've turned you off, haven't I? People hated that one, for some reason!), and will likely go on my shelf next to Ever After.

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