Sunday, June 15, 2014

Magnificent MALEFICENT!

A review by Bruce P. Grether

(NO SPOILERS, or at least nothing very specific!) I’ll seek to avoid revealing major, specific plot points in this brief look at the marvelous new Disney film MALEFICENT, which I saw in a cinema yesterday. In fact, though I have read only a few reviews, on several points I would have enjoyed being totally surprised, though these points by no means spoiled the film for me.

I’ve been especially drawn to this production in part because as a boy of five, I saw Disney’s original animated SLEEPING BEAUTY that serves as the lunching pad for this new live-action film. The former had a lasting affect upon me, and now I’ve found the latter moving, beautiful and of rare cinematic quality.

MALEFICENT offers something I find missing in many contemporary fantasy stories: a meaningful, plausible origin and motivation for figures viewed as villainous. In fact, this revisionist version reminds me of the numerous versions of Greek myths, in which we sometimes still have older more “goddess-oriented” versions, later revised to give male gods greater importance. Though MALEFICENT is filled with magick and fantastic beings, the causes of evil behavior work the same way for humans in our “real” world.

Another aspect of the film I found delightful was the depiction of the “Fair People,” or inhabitants of the Fairy realm, which aligns quite accurately with actual western European traditions. This impressive re-telling does not demolish the original at all, but re-tells it with some surprisingly different slants, which I for one found extremely refreshing and satisfying. So bravo to all involved for pushing beyond the simplistic good-evil scenarios of so much contemporary fantasy!

One more touch of praise must go to Angelina Jolie, whose skilled portrayal of the eponymous character is a major part of why I’d call this film magnificent!

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