on 30 May 2014
"Let us tell an old story anew and see how well you know it." This is the opening line of "Maleficent", a re-imagining of the story of "Sleeping Beauty", as presented from the standpoint of the wicked fairy who casts the sleeping spell. The hex is one made by a woman scorned and, according to this revisionist fairy tale, soon regretted. So many times fairy tales do not transfer to the big screen without becoming Disney-esque. "Maleficent" aspires to be about how, no matter how evil someone might seem, there is something deeply hurt and human inside. Our sympathies lie with the benevolent-turned-malevolent heroine, and, as the story progresses, more surprises and twists are to be found.
Maleficent constantly has to fight against her own bitterness and disappointment, being physically and emotionally crippled. Betrayed by her loved one, and the assault of having her wings cut-off, transform her from a villain into a heroine, and turn the film into a revenge story with a feminist undertone. Every subsequent action Maleficent takes is driven by the trauma of this betrayal. As an evil creature and a woman with magical powers, she could easily wreak havoc on humankind. However, misunderstood by humans, she seeks isolation and has contact with only one person, who knows her as the brave and kind soul she really is (talk about twisting a story and a protagonist!).
Admittedly, director Robert Stromberg had quite a challenge on his hands, transforming a character into someone contemporary audiences could identify with. Reinventing a fairytale, in an attempt to bring fresh life to a well-worn fable is a demanding task. There is so much to look at in the movie, and for the most part Stromberg maintains a balance between the spectacle and the intimacy of the story. As far as the technical part and the visual effects is concerned, the level of craft on display is exquisite, with the art directors, costume designers, and effects technicians exhibiting an impressive consistency throughout the movie. The most extraordinary visual effect, though, is Jolie herself.
James Newton Howard's score is a stirring, impassioned musical treat that enhances the film. Accordingly, my favourite girl Lana Del Rey's gothy version of "Once upon a dream", is a perfect fit for this movie, with her mesmerising vocals sound haunting as well as soothing. Dark and unpredictable, entertaining and bold, exciting and moving, "Maleficent" turns out to be a superb retelling of a classic story. If Charlize Theron's Queen Ravenna from "Snow White and the Huntsman" was the ultimate Evil Queen, Jolie's Maleficent triumphs. It totally feels as if she was born to play this role, she is Maleficent! Evil can be immensely enjoyable and here is the proof. "Maleficent" is truly magnificent.
UPDATE (3/11): The transfer to blu-ray is incredible. The visuals are fantastic, the film is one of those that, when presented properly, one can marvel at the exceptional work that was done technically (vibrant colours, sharp contrasts, and though the movie is a little too CGI-heavy, it all looks amazing). Audio-wise, great sound design, nothing overpowering, with beautiful details that a demanding ear loves to spot. The only downfall is the few extras, which work as an appetiser, rather than satisfy the fans who expect an array of bonus material. Some of these features may vary slightly from one edition to another, depending on where you choose to purchase from, but they are basically the same. I bought the blu-ray+DVD+HD edition, so, the specifications and extras listed below are to be found on that edition. Last, but not least, let me inform you about the gorgeous-looking, region-free, Zavvi exclusive steelbook blu-ray of "Meleficent", which contains the 3D+2D versions of the film. It is a stunning-looking package, with a glossy black finish to it, and beautiful embossed details on the front cover (the title, and particularly Maleficent's eyes), plain back cover, and inside artwork. Available while stock lasts, for collectors and fans of the film, make sure you check for it before it sells out.
List of contents:
Aspect ratio: 16:9 (2.40:1)
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, English: 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French and Spanish: 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Total run time: 129' (feature film - 97', bonus features - 32')
Deleted scenes (6:40)
Aurora: Becoming A Beauty - Elle Fanning reveals her lifelong love of Disney's original animated classic (4:53)
From Fairy Tale To Feature Film - Reimagining Maleficent for a new generation (8:13)
Building An Epic Battle - Creating the clash between Maleficent and King Henry's forces (5:48)
Classic Couture - Examine Maleficent's spellbinding head wraps and jewelry (1:35)
Maleficent Revealed - Explore the layers of extraordinary special effects (4:45)