Maleficent grants us another ‘reimagining’, a trendy and annoying term alongside its sister the ‘reboot’, insinuating the rearranging of some familiar creative property, with added CGI and a ‘darker’ tone producing the likelihood of a major pay day. Maleficent reimagines Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of the angry fairy (Angelina Jolie) and it’s a complete creative shambles. It has some of the ugliest uses of special effects in memory, with a story told so stiffly and with humour so sugary sweet in whimsy it all explodes into PG rated vulgarity.
Everything in this film looks so fake. It’s Robert Stromberg’s directorial debut, a man with a background in visual effects and production design. He seems so out his depth directing this picture, making up for a lack of vision by packing every frame full of stuff. There are things everywhere, making it overwhelming. Every pixel must have something artificial poking out to the extent it looks putrid. It’s hard to get over the cheapness of the creature designs. It’s like the Furby movie was having a car boot sale and Stromberg got a job lot for a fiver and stuck them into his movie.
Then there are the trio of fairies (Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple), the comic relief which will have you scratching your eyeballs out with their squeaky ditzy annoyance. They look dreadful, but nothing can be quite as irritating as the shape of Angelina Jolie’s cheek bones, intended to resemble the Disney cartoon character but providing the appearance of a crushed Coke can for a face. You just want to get your hands around those cheeks and give them a proper squash. Everything in Maleficent is over stylised and over stuffed with poor, synthetic looking creations.
Then there’s the story, which begins badly with Maleficent and the future King as children, with some unforgivably poor child acting, not so much the fault of the children themselves as they’re clearly reading lines in front of a green screen without any direction. The whole film feels like a series of moments floating through a storyboard. None of the actors in the film seems to have any passion or belief in the project. It’s creatively suffocated, devoid of verve or energy. There’s no flow to the story and absolutely no depth to creating the world. It’s a shallow quagmire of a film, a clunky mess without anything redeeming or interesting.
Maleficent is out now in the UK and out on 30 May in the US. Running time 97 mins. Certificate PG (UK).
Review by David Rank