Sunday, November 2, 2014

Video review: "Maleficent"

Hollywood likes to boast of big stars in big movies that “no one else could have played the part,” but in the case of “Maleficent” I think that’s demonstrably true. Only Angelina Jolie has the requisite combination of compelling screen presence, supernatural beauty and somewhat eerie star persona to play in this revisionist take on the Sleeping Beauty fable.

In many ways it’s surprising that Disney would commission such a dark twist on one of its most iconic animated films. Jolie plays the villainess as a maligned antihero who has everything she loved torn away from her, and responds in kind.

In this version, Maleficent is a powerful fairy who falls for a human boy, only to have him betray her and cut off her wings in order to gain the throne of the kingdom for himself. She dubs herself the queen of the Moors, the land where the magical creatures hide, and later places a curse on the new king’s daughter, Aurora (Elle Fanning).

As the years pass Maleficent finds herself spying on the girl, from whom goodness shines like the sun, and eventually befriends her. Despite her hatred for Aurora’s father, she finds herself regretting her curse, which says the girl will fall into a deathlike slumber upon her 16th birthday.

Tonally it’s a tough act to pull off, to balance this oft-mesmerizing mix of woe and whimsy, and not one that first-time director Robert Stromberg is entirely up to. (Reportedly they even had to bring in a more seasoned filmmaker to “help” with reshoots.)

Still, it’s a visually captivating journey, and certainly one that’s never boring. Jolie’s get-up as Maleficent, with her horns, ebony dresses and facial prosthetics, is can’t-take-your-eyes-off amazing. I only wish the story equaled the eye candy.

Video extras are quite good, though you have to opt for the Blu-ray combo pack in order to get the best stuff. The DVD comes only with “Aurora: Becoming A Beauty,” a featurettes focusing on Fanning’s casting and transformation.

The blur-ray includes a half-dozen making-of featurettes touching on all aspects of the production, including the special effects to create Maleficent’s look and the film’s battle scenes. You also get a handful of deleted scenes.



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