Friday, October 25, 2019

MLEEP Reviews: Maleficent - Mistress Of Evil | #Maleficent

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MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL
Written By Linda Woolverton, Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue
Composed By Geoff Zanelli
Produced By Joe Roth, Angelina Jolie and Duncan Henderson
Edited By Laura Jennings and Craig Wood
Directed By Joachim Ronning


Looking back at Disney's 2014 re-imagining of their 1959 animated classic 'Sleeping Beauty', Maleficent is a film that as time moves on and the more I think about it...the more I realized that it's actually really really really really really dumb.  Granted there are some good things to note about the feature like Angelina Jolie did deliver a great performance as the Mistress Of All Evil and the visuals are well done, but it's just that everything else is a complete disaster.  Even with Angelina Jolie putting effort, some of the cast is terrible with people who are either under-acting or over-acting and the writing is absolutely hopeless since what was supposed to be a remake of the animated film told through the perspective of the villain became this convoluted story that feels like a broken down rip-off of 'Wicked' covered with pointless characters along with embarrassing comedy and a message of feminism that is so badly executed and forcefully hammered in that it actually did more damage to women representation in cinema than actually helping it because nothing says girl power more than turning Disney's greatest villain into Bayonetta.

However despite whatever flaws this movie carries, it still ended up becoming a major hit at the box office...and with Hollywood's addiction to creating franchises out of literally anything, there's no surprise Disney decided to cast the spell to summon Maleficent once again.  Yes...as if the animated film didn't suffer enough, here comes the sequel to kill off whatever dignity the original had because I guess this is one of those stories that we must know what happened after the characters' happily ever after.  Also right from the start, there's already something that's annoying me about this movie: they didn't call this 'Maleficent 2' but rather 'Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil'.  Yeah, sure I get that they're still trying to capitalize on what the public knows the character best in terms of marketing purposes and I understand that for sure...but are you telling me that you have made an entire feature film to go and spread the message and to put it out there that this new version of Maleficent is not the bad guy, that she is not the evil one and then suddenly you decide to go and release a sequel where you are literally LITERALLY calling her the Mistress Of Evil?!  Come on...if you can't be consistent with your marketing, then how can I trust the movie?!  In the words of Maleficent, 'oh dear...what an awkward situation'...let's just get this over with, this is 'Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil'!

MALEFICENT - MISTRESS OF EVIL: A formidable queen causes a rift between Maleficent and Princess Aurora who must face new allies and enemies in a bid to protect the magical lands which they share

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I'll admit, I certainly did underestimate this movie...I didn't expect that it would end up becoming this stupid!  Where do I even begin with this one?  How about we start with the writing since at least that'll help organize my mind for now: this isn't just ordinary bad writing, this movie has a script that's so bad that it's amazing how a big studio like Disney could even approve of something that's so blatantly broken!  It is nearly a textbook example of what can go wrong with a plot: the story is shamelessly predictable where the entire feature can be guessed right from the beginning, some characters required to be dumb as a post in order for the actions to proceed, there are many elements that feel like they are flat-out copied from other movies like the villain Queen Ingrith being too similar to Jafar from the Aladdin remake where their goal is to rule the land so that they can declare war, the dialogue is hilariously bad while the actual comedy is cringy, it has no idea what subtlety means and the whole movie is covered with a desperately hammered in message with the difference this time being that it wants to speak about choosing peace instead of war and that we should all be united as one instead of fighting each other because we're different-yes, it's a good and nice message but it gets intolerable when the film has to keep preaching it again and again and again for two hours straight!  Ironically, most of the movie is nothing but set-up for the epic war at the end of Queen Ingrith's Kingdom versus the Dark Fey where the battle itself isn't even all that impressive or intense since it's all just waiting for Maleficent to come in and say 'here I come to save the day'.  The only promising thing that the writing presents is prominently showing the origin of Maleficent's species the Dark Fey like where they come from and what happened to them.  However while the concept is promising, the execution ruined it to be the typical 'hiding endangered species' or 'a supernatural native tribe with a hatred for humans' complete with the one guy whose every line is literally just 'humans are bad and we should go to war against them'.

Technically, that shouldn't be all that surprising considering that they brought back the same writer to work on this film along with some new help for the screenplay which is why this movie ended up having the same problems but it's just that the real shock factor is the fact of how bad these problems ended up becoming.  But of course, the writer wasn't the only one that came back for this movie as do some of the cast along with some newcomers: now with the cast of Maleficent at least in terms of the first film, it really was a mixed bag with some people that are really good and then you also got others that are pretty much terrible...and in the case of the sequel just like the writing, that did not change.  For this one, I'm gonna start off with the bad stuff and then climb my way up to the good at least to get the rest of the negatives out of the way: when the acting is bad in the sequel, the actors seem lifeless like they show as much emotion as the animals do in the Lion King remake whether it be with the Queen's assistant or the absent-minded Prince Phillip...and then there's the princess herself, the one with the gift of blandness: Aurora, played by Elle Fanning who one of the worst performances in the predecessor came from her as she went through the movie like she still had a bit of the sleeping curse.  In the new film, it tries to give Aurora a more prominent role as she's going to marry Phillip and then slowly discover the Queen's nefarious plans...but throughout the film, Fanning always gives this blank expression with a monotone voice that looks like the wheels in her head aren't turning and could start drooling at any moment.  Granted she did actually show some form of emotion by the end of the film, but her performance is on par with Emma Watson from the 2017 Beauty And The Beast remake...and yet with the wooden performance she delivers, it's kind of frustrating how she can get away with it.

How is it that some can unironically state that the animated Aurora is the worst Disney Princess while hypocritically claim that the one in the Maleficent movies is better with that combo of bad writing and bad acting?!  I get that she doesn't do much in the cartoon, but at least give the original some credit...at least the performance by Mary Costa was well done both acting and singing-wise, only she could present some form of a personality with her kind-hearted nature and the way she is drawn can show that she could be human and able to express many emotions!  With the live-action Aurora, there is no emotion in her face and her performance doesn't make her human...and while she does more actions, they're only to progress an awful story and can often have some seriously stupid moments!  Maybe there are some better performances from her in other movies, but come on...you're being paid probably millions of dollars to star in a big budget Disney movie next to A-list celebrities, is it too much to ask to pretend like you care or put some effort?!  But keep in mind, there are some good performances as well like from Angelina Jolie as well as Chiwetel Ejiofor and Michelle Pfeiffer yet there's no amount of acting that can help fix these characters at all with such a disastrous script and yet there is one that stands out among the rest which is surprisingly Sam Riley as Diaval who actually supplied some decent entertainment along with some enjoyable lines.

While I did go hard on this movie, there is one good thing that eases the pain of its flaws.  It may not be good, but I will say that it is a good looking movie: the sets are highly impressive, the costumes and makeup really look nice and the visual effects help amplify the fantasy elements to give audiences a nice feast for the eyes.  Maybe there are some moments where the effects can look weird, but it feels good knowing that in a movie where certain key members put no effort that there is something in this that actually cares about making something work.  You know, it's funny that this movie actually has some great looking visuals because...as a movie based on Disney's 'Sleeping Beauty', it did make me reflect upon the true meaning of beauty: now this can be very pleasing to the eyes and it can look great...but if there's nothing within when you go deep into it and you find that you're not really having a good time or your feeling with them doesn't feel all that great and it feels unpleasant, then that exterior beauty would be meaningless and it's no longer appealing and...in the case of this Maleficent sequel, I could give it credit that it has great looking visuals but yet it doesn't make it a good movie.

What's funny to note is that I may not think about the first Maleficent movie highly, but I will give it that I can see a creative purpose of it: it's to go and create a new updated version of a Disney classic...sure it didn't do it well, but at least creatively there is a point and it gave itself a reason to go and exist to give filmmakers a little bit of an experiment to do something while giving us this one-off story.  But with the sequel however, it ends up raising so many questions: what is the purpose to have this movie in particular, why is it that we need this update on what's happening with Maleficent after the first movie and was there really that much of a demand that the public is pretty much pleading for us to have another Maleficent movie.  Honestly, I can't really find much of an answer to it...and by looking at the sequel, I feel like the only reason why it does exist is mainly because the first one made a lot of money thus Disney wants to go and figure out if they can go and try to do it again with the sequel.  When you go and make a movie like that, it's really obvious that the movie itself will end up not having a soul and they'll realize that the purpose of it is just extremely hollow and...at the end of the day, the big question about 'Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil' is what's the point.  Really, here's something that I want to ask you: what is the point of 'Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil' and it's a little bit tricky because it's extremely difficult to find a real good answer for it that it's not money....try to do that, you'll see it's a little bit tricky

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Overall, 'Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil' is a prominent example of when capitalizing the Disney live-action remake trend goes too far by now making franchises out of them.  While there is some noticeable effort to make some quality entertainment with great visuals that present good effects and sets along with makeup and costumes and some of the acting is well done, they're far from enough to cover the flaws that completely destroyed this movie like the other actors that gave a dreadful performance and absolutely hopeless writing that ultimately killed the core of the feature where there's nothing anyone could do to make it good.  If you asked for my recommendation, I'd say to just skip this movie entirely-in fact, forget this and the first one since the only thing that's worth watching is the 1959 animated film...at least that one has a simple and better told story, better characters and a better Aurora that can actually act.  Did Maleficent ever need a sequel, the answer is obviously no with this film and that is why I'm giving this a 4 out of 10...this movie can be quite a cruel mistress!

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