7.5/10 – IMDb
51% – Rotten Tomatoes
I generally come out of the movie theater pretty happy, rarely feeling like I wasted my time. Part of this comes from fairly low standards, and part from the fact that I hesitate to shell out the dough for subpar movies. In the past couple weeks, however, I’ve whiffed twice. After being greatly disappointed with A Million Ways to Die in the West, I once again came away feeling empty after Maleficent. I wouldn’t call it a waste of time, but the experience was disheartening after hearing so many good things about the film.
Should I pay to see it?
This may comes as a surprise to those of you who have read positive reviews and seen the big numbers put up by the film in its first weekend, but I would say no to paying theater fare. My high expectations and a visually stunning open to the film had me excited for what lay in store, but overall the hour and a half left much up to the imagination, outlined with a fairly captivating plot but executed poorly. Sharlto Copley (of District 9 fame), for example, plays the part of Stefan well, but his devolution into a dark and hateful figure feels detached and incomplete. Rarely do I wish movies were longer (see, again: A Million Ways to Die in the West), but for this one it seems a couple more scenes may have made for a greater whole. Disney is everywhere, so Maleficent will surely be found on small screens for all eternity. Consequently, I wouldn’t advise rushing out to the theaters with your Buncha Crunch and ICEE in hand.
Could I watch it with a date?
You could indeed, but with better choices like The Fault in Our Stars out there and others like 22 Jump Street on the way, I would not recommend doing so. Some of this depends on your age and familiarity with the Sleeping Beauty story. Perhaps some people will view this as a vibrant reimagining of a classic, but others may see only a confusing and disconnected story. Angelina Jolie herself may also be a polarizing force, given the ubiquity of her face and relationship over the past decade. I thought her performance was a redeeming quality of an otherwise underwhelming movie, but I could understand others’ complaints of her lines being awkwardly delivered (Really, the problem seems to be abysmal writing.). She and Sam Riley (as Maleficent’s sidekick Diaval) show great chemistry, and their storyline seems to be the most fully developed, but from there the plot weakens. On an important side note, you will definitely mistake Dival for Jack White at least once. I was waiting eagerly for the bass to come in, hard. Beside those two, the cast woefully disappoints. Imelda Staunton leads three underachieving pixie actresses, and Elle Fanning falls well short of expectations as Aurora, vapidly floating around the edges of a story that needed more from her.
Could I watch it with my mother?
This may make more sense than watching with a date, given the age of the Sleeping Beauty tale and the tone of the movie itself. This story actively draws comparisons to Wicked, the other Good Witch Gone Bad story of our time, but the stories fall far apart along the spectra of darkness and entertainment value. Maleficent seems unsure of its place, bouncing between inventive children’s story and heavy adult considerations from scene to scene. Looking back now, I think the movie would have benefited from starting with Aurora’s Maleficent-inflicted curse and flashing back to the title character’s history rather than spending its early moments dwelling on the sorceress’ childhood. There’s a fine line to tiptoe between too much focus on a character and not enough; Maleficent somehow manages to jump back and forth between the two sections without ever settling on that desired line.
This summer boasts a strong slate of movies, everything from blockbusters to small creative projects. Knowing that greater works lie ahead, you might as well stay in and wait for something better. Sadly, I had to learn that the hard way.