DaWaRou Posts: The Problem with Maleficent

I’m a big lover of Disney’s animated movies and in this day and age where there seems to be this market for retelling famous Fairy Tales. I find myself drawn to these big budget adaptations because in addition to being visually stimulating, there’s just so much room for shit to go north or south…as they so often do and nowhere has shit gone further south than in Disney’s Maleficent.

maleficent-poster-300…I’m not even sure where to begin but with a confession that I thought that this movie’s intent was a really interesting if kind of lame idea. Maleficent was marketed and pitched as a perspective flip of the beloved Disney animated movie Sleeping Beauty. Needless to say…what we received as a film was something of a mixed bag in my opinion. Visually stimulating? Yes! Perspective flip? Kind of. Now this post isn’t meant to be a review of the movie so much as it is a criticism of things that I felt were not good decisions or at least things that went wrong adaptation wise. This movie was being pitched as an adaptation of the old Disney movie, and I’m going to view it as such. So what’s the first thing that went wrong?

1. Backstory

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So, I’m not too surprised that the film starts with and delves into the supposed “backstory” of Maleficent. I mean, everyone knows what happens on the day that Aurora was born but what happened before? Well, if I may pose a question…who cares what happened before? That’s what fanfiction is for, not big budget Hollywood movies. And of course the movie decides to go for the worst backstory possible, that Maleficent was really a good fairy and she fell in love with a mortal boy who pretty much betrayed her love for power, cut off her wings in a scene that’s very similar to date rape and then she vowed revenge and that’s what lead up to the cursing of Aurora, because her father was the world’s biggest prick. I find this almost insulting the actual character of Maleficent because the fun thing about her in the animated movie is that she’s just evil for the sake of evil. She does what she does because it’s fun to fuck with people and she genuinely enjoys making others miserable. For example, there’s a scene in the original that I really like where Maleficent has absconded with Prince Philip and locks him away in her dungeon and for an extra kick in the teeth tells him that she’s not going to kill him but keep him there for a hundred years while Aurora is still ageless in sleep and the let him go to see if true love’s kiss can still break the spell. It’s the little things like that which really add to the character. Not useless trivial backstory like what we get in this movie. Again, who the hell asked for this?

2. King Stefan

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So, I’d like to know what studio official proclaimed from on high “This film needs to have an antagonist who was largely a side character in the movie that we’re loosely basing our movie on.” Furthermore I’d like to know who okayed the idea. King Stefan in the original was really just a bit character. While he is the one to blame for not inviting Maleficent it’s not done out of any malice or cruel intention. Far from it actually. He just wants his daughters birthday party to go off without a hitch. In this film…he’s Maleficent’s childhood friend turned love interest turned greedy bastard. See, the Faries are at war with the humans and the previous king, after getting his ass handed to him by Maleficent and the other forest Fairies, is dying and declares that anyone who can kill Maleficent can take his daughter’s hand in marriage. Stefan drugs our title character but can’t bring himself to kill her so he settles for the next best thing. He cuts off her wings and presents them to the dying king and inherits the kingdom. This is the reason why Maleficent decides to curse Aurora. While it works for the narrative, I just have to ask myself…why? Why do this? This is needless as it puts Maleficent in direct conflict with someone who’s far less powerful but no less vindictive but it also has the adverse effect of making this guy a main character and a catalyst for the entirety of the events of the film in a completely different way. It also makes him horribly unlikable has he begins slowly descending into madness from the time where Maleficent appears at Aurora’s party all the way to his death near the end of the film. Oh, yeah, he dies. He also makes the decision to keep Aurora out of harms way but…it turns out quite differently as we go into…

3. The Fairies

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So, right off the bat you know that this is a completely different story when the three good Fairies introduce themselves. I don’t care to remember what their new names are but they present an angle which I actually kind of liked. If you look at Maleficent as a deconstruction of Sleeping Beauty then these three actually work. Think about it. Give three Fairies the task of raising a human child for 16 years and then watch them almost kill their charge out of negligence. Aside from that aspect though, this movie takes Disney’s first actually active female protagonists and makes them into bumbling idiots. In the original movie I always thought that it was largely implied that Merryweather did most of the grunt work in raising Aurora. I’m quite willing to suspend my disbelief that these three were able to not only raise Aurora but keep her secret from Maleficent. In this movie, she finds the baby almost immediately and spends most of her time keeping Aurora alive and fucking with the good Fairies. I’m…not satisfied with how this was handled in this film. Let’s move on.

4. Prince Phillip

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I’ve got to give props to casting. This kid’s got potential roles coming his way on his attractiveness alone. But…as for his portrayal of the iconic Prince Phillip…I’ve…eh. So, I know that the characters of Sleeping Beauty aren’t bursting with personality but Prince Phillip was the mold from which some of the better Disney Princes were made. Aladdin, Eric, Beast…the list goes on. Phillip was the first Disney Prince to have any actual agency in the story. He sets out to meet Briar Rose at the cottage, and upon finding out that she’s actually the Princess Aurora he sets out to rescue her with the help of the three good Fairies. As for this guy…he’s kind of superfluous. I really think that what the makers of this movie set out to do was to tell their own original story but they were bound by the constraints of making it a perspective flip of the Disney version so they set out to force all the iconic things about the original into their movie and the result is what we got. This Prince Phillip meets Aurora in the woods and is indeed smitten with her but according the movie, it’s not True Love or Love at First Sight. In fact, I feel that if any care was given to the original it was purely to deconstruct it. Say what you will about Love at First Sight, but I’m a big believer in it personally and I feel like the fact that we had to deconstruct it here is kind of groundbreaking as it breaks away from the Disney sterotype but…here it makes Prince Phillip as a character and as a Plot Device utterly useless. Speaking of love…

5. Love’s First Kiss

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Ugggh…I saw this coming a mile away but I really hoped that it wouldn’t go down this way. So lets take a moment to talk about two other things that Disney has made within the past few years. The first of those is Once Upon a Time the show which sets all our favorite storybook characters in the real world. In that series True Love’s Kiss can break any curse and the big curse that’s looming in the first season is broken by a kiss of true love…the love a mother has for her son. Now Frozen came out just a year or so ago and focused on the love between sisters and that’s what saved the day in the end. Now Maleficent comes along and tries to recycle the same damn thing and try to be all subversive and deconstructive of True Love and Love at First Sight and it just comes off as lazy and superficial. Look, if you want to deconstruct the idea of Love at First Sight, go ahead and do it. But the kiss in Sleeping Beauty is one of Disney’s most iconic moments and I’d prefer that not be messed with. And then of course we just have to have Maleficent be the one to break the curse and…Uggh, lets talk about something else.

6. Maleficent

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The last problem I have with the movie is kind of a combination of everything else and it’s Maleficent herself. So, what’s the Mistress of all Evil been reduced to in this…dare I say “feminist” reinterpretation of the classic Sleeping Beauty story? A woman scorned with a vendetta against the guy who screwed her over, cause men right? Men are always fucking shit up for the world, what with our tendencies toward violence, our less than intelligent lifestyle choices and just generally being the inferior gender right? Oh yeah, no, cause women do that shit too. Honestly I think the biggest problem I have with this movie is it’s rationality and morality. Of course it’s a MAN’S fault that Maleficent is the way that she is. OF course! Men are always driving women towards evil shit because that’s just how men are and that’s the world we live in where men are always the ones at fault and women are entirely justified in the shit that they do because they’re women and women have never made shitty lifestyle choices or been prone to violent revenge schemes or ever just been wholly morally reprehensible and bankrupt bitches…right? The framework of Maleficent seems to justify the actions of our title character because she was violated for being a trusting naieve young woman and a MAN ruined her life because that’s what MEN do! We RUIN the lives of women! I find this insulting because, I’m a man and while men do inadvertently and purposely ruin lives it’s not as though every man sets out to do so.  Maleficent herself in the original was the woman who scorned an entire kingdom, taking away their only joy, their only hope out of petty spite. I’m glad that the new movie recognizes that Maleficent is a Fairy and not just a witch. Fairies in original folklore were some of the worst things you could possibly run into and Maleficent in the original Sleeping Beauty exemplifies why you dont want to piss one off. Cursing infants to death was totally a thing that they’d do for nothing more than shits and giggles. Also, Fairies only started having wings around the time Shakespeare started writing them into his plays so I’m very much lost on this whole “wing” thing that’s omnipresent in the movie. Honestly the only good thing about this movie is the recreation of the iconic scene where Maleficent curses Aurora. That and the casting. But I think I’ve gone on long enough.

Maleficent follows in the wake of much superior acts like Frozen and Wicked. It takes a character who’s actions are antagonistic and turns them into our protagonist. At least Frozen had the benefit of competent writing, as did Wicked. This is just insulting. It’s insulting for the ideas it seeks to offer on love, it’s insulting to the viewer as better works in this vein have been done, and it’s insulting to the original Sleeping Beauty  as a story as well as it’s characters. I’m so glad that the sands of time will likely sweep this movie under the rug like so many other live action Disney movies. I’m John Cortez and this is a DaWaRou Post.