In our rarely-running kinda-series Should You See It? we talk about movies that just came out. You can figure out the rest of the premise from the title of the series. That’s right: We talk recipes. Should you see Maleficent?
Trying to make a movie appeal to everyone can be problematic. If it’s meant for children, studio executives/producers feel the need to also make sure the adults are in on the laughs and tears. While this might satiate everyone slightly, the end result is something almost unclassifiable: a hybrid movie with all the plot motivation and CGI a child could want with the postmodern self-consciousness and humor an adult would expect. Many times in the theater, I heard a child whisper to the attendant parent, “What’s happening?” If this question is asked during the run of a children’s film, then it is almost certainly a failure. The beauty of the original Sleeping Beauty film is in its simplicity; Maleficent, however, adds complication after plot complication, giving “adult” realness and motivation to the main character, ultimately making her more relatable to adults than children. This is the movie’s main flaw.
I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending in any way, but the complexity the film tries to attain through this ending certainly confused this viewer. I had assumed the Raven fellow (a stand-in for the companions of Odin: Huginn and Muninn) would end up being the one to break the spell; in that regard, I was wrong. However, I feel like the way the story was built (with Maleficent and her servant watching over Aurora), we were supposed to feel that way. I’m by no means begrudging the ending and its representation of the many different kinds of true love; I was just mystified by the movie’s many attempts to lead us astray in order to keep us guessing.
Should you see it?
Will this film be watched with the same fervor as Sleeping Beauty in 20 years? I quite doubt it. Though Angelina Jolie was a powerful force in this film, her power almost mutes the depiction of the other characters. Ultimately, this film falls between two worlds, an ever-widening divide as long as studio executives are calling the shots rather than the story-makers.
Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at owenmay.com, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.