Yes, I did see two movies this weekend. (Take that the one person who answered the poll and said to see neither movie.)
I liked this movie but I will warn you from the start it is definitely more of a kid’s kid movie than other recent options. It is not a kid’s movie like The Lego Movie that adults basically hijacked. And it is not a princess movie like Frozen that united the world in literal harmony. What it is is a large step above the classic Disney princess tale. If I had to compare it to something I would say Mirror Mirror which is based on the tale of Snow White and came out around the same time as Snow White and the Huntsman which is probably why you might not know it.
I will start by addressing the biggest factor in this movie: Angelina Jolie. She was an executive producer as well as the title character. She was heavily featured in advertising. This movie was going to succeed or fail based on her. And I loved her in it. She has a face that is impossible to mistake but they were smart with her makeup. They played up her cheekbones and in the end it wasn’t Angelina I was watching but Maleficent. It helps that even if she was a nobody she looks a lot like the cartoon character. She was fully clothed and did little hand to hand combat which helps as well.
The changes to the story were beautiful. Gone is the good vs. evil, black vs. white, old vs. young flat palate of the original. Instead we have a villain that is also a hero. The characters were dynamic and grew. We had justification for the hate and the war. We had complex relationships and back stories. And we had a strong but relatable female lead. Plus the princess looked her age.
The gifts from the pixies were slightly altered for the better. There was, of course, the gift of beauty but instead of the gift of song the second gift was the gift of being liked by people. It is nice to see that we can now admit that beauty, while making life easier, isn’t the only thing to strive for. As Aurora grows we also see that, even without a magic gift, she is not stupid. She has a sense of wonder, of adventure, can do simple feats of logic, and is a good person.
And the best part is that it isn’t the kiss from the prince that saves her life. People in the theater were like, “Well, I don’t see why that had to change that part.” Let’s play a game shall we? Do you know his name? Do you know any of their names? It’s harder than you think. Aurora and Prince Phillip talk for a minute at most in the woods. This movie is smart enough to know that the modern audience isn’t going to like it if a guy she has known for less time than a round of speed-dating kisses her and saves the day in the name of “true love”.
Instead, they have Maleficent fill the role which has the added bonus of letting her be a kind of mother, a role empty for every Disney princess besides Mulan and Brave. After all, the 16-year-olds have time to get to know each other since they let a woman be queen. (The first king would rather appoint some previously destitute orphan with no blood relationship as successor than his own daughter.) Phillip looks a little One Direction to me so maybe she can play the field some.
No character, besides Angelina, was overly attractive, most of them were normal attractive. The king was flat-out weak in both appearance and voice which works since he is supposed to be weak in character. They shied away from using too much pink.
Giving Maleficent a kind-of best friend crow was a nice touch. He wasn’t Olaf but he was enjoyable and really helped grow some of the characters. He helped Maleficent overcome herself and get close to Aurora. Although I have to say, Maleficent’s initial reaction when child Aurora came up to her is exactly how I feel about children.
One last thing I will talk about is the magical creatures. The magical world felt like a cross between Miyazaki’s Mononoke-Hime and LOTR. The boars especially for the first and the trees for the second. It was almost parallel to Narnia but with a little more practicality to the creatures. I liked the style but I do take issue with there being seemingly two types of creatures: ones that always exist and once that seem to only come to life when Maleficent uses her magic. We had normal tree men that were always around but a super awesome root dragon that we only see when she summons if for the fight. I feel like they spent an awful lot of time on all the creatures only to make more for plot progression.
Verdict: I don’t regret seeing it but I wasn’t wowed by it and I will probably be able to live never seeing it again.
Social Cues: This is not a sing-a-long. If you think you might be too old for it you are probably right. But it is good for the inner child in all of us. Probably go with your grandma or family so you don’t look like a creeper.