PG...and the hypocrisy continues. I sound really militant, but it is absolutely insane that this movie is only PG. It's because it is a Disney movie based on a G-rated Disney property. This movie is really violent. Lots of characters die in violent, albeit fantasy-based, ways. Like, a fairly major Disney character dies. If that's too spoilery for you, 1) this site assumes you have seen the movie and 2) it's probably not the character you think it is. Regardless, PG, I guess.
DIRECTOR: Joachim Rønning
Okay, okay. I fell behind on writing. I took a few days off to work on grad school things. Basically, I was writing about movies...just not the movies that I talk about on this blog. Right now, I should be writing about movies. But nothing inspires me to write about a movie that I care nothing about than thinking that I have to be doing something towards my grade. Basically, I'm procrastinating from my homework by doing the exact same thing as my homework. I hate me too. But I will admit, there's a weird amount of stress knowing that my blog was dying on the vine. (Two days without posts and my count dropped through the floor.) Well, if an extra day (leap year) is a metaphor for getting an extra chance, I'm surely taking it.
There's a Hot Topic contingent that absolutely adores Maleficent as a character, right? I really don't quite understand the whole love for the villain thing with Maleficent. I'm kind of about to answer my own question here, but Maleficent doesn't really have a whole lot of depth as far as I understand. Sleeping Beauty is a gorgeous movie that really doesn't spend a whole lot of time developing its villain. She looks scary and evil and that's why she is scary and evil. Disney nerds, I already apologize for how flippant I'm being towards something that I'm sure has infinite depth. But from a lay person, I never really understood the adoration for this character. But the really insane thing for me is that this is a sequel to a prequel. And I saw the original one too. Was that up for an Academy Award for some technical credit too? I can't imagine I sat down to watch that movie assuming it was going to be amazing.
My biggest complaint with Maleficent, the first movie, was that to make a villain actually heroic, you needed to make someone else more superficial. I could have sworn that I wrote something about the first movie, but my search for an analysis came up empty. That's probably good because what I believe about the first movie holds true. I know that people adore Wicked. I get the idea. Wicked is the best template for what is going on here. I, and I'm absolutely mortified to say this, don't really like Wicked. While I think analyzing villains is actually pretty cool, there's a fine line when the movie comes to the conclusion that the villain is simply misunderstood. Say what you will for my distaste for Joker, it at least never had any reservations about making him a good guy all along.
What happens is this: The world establishes an unfair world that the villain inhabits. The villain tries his or her best to live in an unfair society. Something the villain does is horribly misunderstood. Sometimes its morally objectionable, but a reasonable mistake. Sometimes the problem isn't his or her fault at all. But what more than not happens is that characters that we previously thought were moral or victims in the original tale are far more insidious than the previously let on. What we get is a massive retcon that tries to sully the intentions of the original characters presented in the original story. What really happens is that we're left exactly where we started: we are presented with a villain that seems to have little motivation for what he or she is doing. With the case of Maleficent, we now know way too much about her character, but the villain seems to be completely two-dimensional.
This sequel does something good and bad for the character. (Ideally, it puts to rest the need for more Maleficent movies because I don't know if I have another one of these in me.) It establishes that Maleficent is more than her origin story. She lives in a greater world and has relationships beyond the narrative of the first film. Wicked is interesting, but it also seems really self-contained. That story is that story. We have to assume that the world will continue on with what The Wizard of Oz has established and that's perfectly fine. Maleficent has Aurora and that relationship has blossomed. Because this is a sequel to a movie that established that we didn't know everything about the original tale, the story is allowed to expand without the constraints of being tied to the source material of Sleeping Beauty. That's kind of a novelty in itself. The first movie is locked; the second movie is free.
But, honestly, the character of Maleficent had her just desserts in the first movie, which in itself wasn't that interesting. We're mining for more pyrite as we get these revelations that we just don't care about and, to be completely frank, aren't that risky. People didn't dig Prometheus (although I kind of did) because we needed to know everything about the race and species of this one-of-a-kind thing. But at the end of the day, the more answers that we get out of these worlds, the more disappointed we're going to be. I never really wondered what kind of creature Maleficent was. I simply assumed she was a dark sorceress and that's the end of that. Why do I need to know that she's a member of this secret race of hidden people. Wait a tick! This movie shares the plot with another Academy Award nominated kids movie that I found remarkably dull: How to Train Your Dragon 3! I don't care about that people. If anything, it makes Maleficent less interesting.
The lone survivor is an interesting concept. Doctor Who handled this concept extremely well when the reboot came back in 2005. Superman has always dealt with this issue and has done so fabulously. But these conceits were fundamental to the characters way before these questions were answered. It took a long time to see another Time Lord or another Kryptonian. It was something that was in the character's makeup so, when that revelation happened, it was glorious. But Maleficent wasn't wondering where she came from. In fact, that was Aurora's narrative. That made way more sense for her character than for Maleficent. Maybe if there was a theme of doubling, that might have played a bigger part. But this movie just kind of gave her this hangup and then instantly gratified her with a solution.
There's something that really had potential here, but I feel like fantasy has already tackled this theme better than Maleficent: Mistress of Evil could do. There's a theme of xenophobia and the idea that white America maybe isn't the good guy in these situations. Yeah, I can see this being pretty important to discuss. But there's no degree of nuance. When dealing with racism of xenophobia, often movies go in with these grand intentions. But then the movie makes the villain so remarkably evil that film viewers tend to distance themselves from the villain. "I'm not as bad as that villain. That's racism." Instead, we don't get criticisms of actual racism. While I'm sure that white America is committing horrible atrocities, I'm sure it doesn't involved trapping all foreigners at a mass event and making them disappear. And the people who are doing that aren't going to reflect on their lives after watching Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. What about all of the small evils that actually are xenophobic? Why can't that be discussed in a way that is allegorical?
Why is it so hard to make a good fantasy outside of The Lord of the Rings? I was about three-quarters through this movie and noticing the money being thrown at the screen. Since LotR, fantasy films just look epic and they are taken seriously. Yet, I get insanely bored watching these movies. They are straight up dull in a lot of cases and that bums me out. There's this huge fight sequence at the end where all kinds of effects are being used and I kept looking at my phone across the room. I was so tempted to get up, walk to the phone, and just stare at the random videos that Facebook recommends.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is just boring. Like, it's so boring. I don't know why I do this to myself. (I know exactly why: the joy of seeing my Oscar ballot sheet completely highlighted.) Regardless, this is a big skip.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.