It's been four years since we've seen Angelina Jolie in anything and the last time we did it was in one of the biggest box office failures of the year. I understand that she's a mother of 40 kids and when you're married to Brad Pitt you don't have to be the bread-winner but c'mon, Angie! We miss you! Well, we miss seeing you because as far as your movies go, you actually don't have a stellar record of making good ones. I know it's hard to believe but pull up her IMDB page and check it out for yourself. She's someone we love as Hollywood royalty without ever really earning it. That's not to say she's not a great actress because she is. In fact, she's one of the only great things about Maleficent.
The titular character of this re-telling of Sleeping Beauty is interesting. It's been 55 years since Walt Disney made this (which was a box office and critical failure at the time, mind you) and 317 years since the original source material was published. Out of all the Disney villains, Maleficent consistently ranks at the top, which is why Disney decided to make this film. However, when you go down the predicatble and dissapointing road of telling a story from a villain's perspective and make them a misunderstood softy-at-heart, you strip away everything that we loved about them in the first place.
See, there are villains that we love to hate and villains that we just plain hate; both are excellent for a story. But when you make the villain the star and then also make them the sympathetic hero, it's not what we love about the character anymore. Sure, they look the same and talk the same but they don't act the same. That choice was crippling for this film. Make Maleficent dark and twitsted and complicated. I know it's Disney and they were even aiming for a PG rating (which I'm shocked they got), but if those are your guidelines, then don't make it.
Director Robert Stromberg seemed to throw any original vision he might have had out the window and instead tore pages from the playbook of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, HBO's Game of Thrones and even a little of James Cameron's Avatar. That type of unoriginality should've been expected by a guy like Stromberg who never directed a single thing before this but was an Oscar-winning visual effects master. He's used to having people tell him what their vision is and never had to come up with one himself. I can't blame him for doing it this way since he's had over 20 years of experience doing just that.
Maleficent also wasn't helped by a good script either. It has the slowest and soggiest middle I've seen in months, has shockingly sparce dialogue and crams in unwatchable scenes of levity provided by the three fairies. Despite all that, Angelina Jolie is pretty great in it. Her brief performance that features Maleficent's wings cut off is agonizingly sad for a PG-rated film. Maybe I'm reading into it too much but I wonder if she pulled from her real life and what it was like to part with her breasts after her double mastectomy. Knowing that she went through that makes that scene simply heartbreaking and perhaps the only magic found in an otherwise very forgettable film.