Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Movie Review: "Maleficent" (SPOILERS)

Maleficent opens with the happy young fairy living alone and ruling an Edenic world. On the sexism scale, it's maybe a five out of ten: Maleficent protects stuff, which is empowering, but it's just flowers and fairies. In today's terms that's kind of like opening a cupcake shop.

A boyfriend backstabs Maleficent, turning her bitter while simultaneously making him king. She casts a spell on his daughter: at the age of 16, she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel, and only true love can wake her up. The king orders his soldiers to kill Maleficent, but she has magic on her side. She casts another spell that surrounds the moors with a mile-high wall of thorns. Aside from changing Maleficent into a nice but spurned young fairy, Disney has also modified spells. They used to be wordy, like this one in Macbeth:

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Crazy, huh? And that's just eight of 38 lines. If I was the intended victim, about halfway through I'd be screaming, "HOLY GOD, JUST SHOOT ME NOW!"

By the time Bewitched came around, spells were four lines, max. Here's how Samantha Stevens turned a statue into a man:

Though of marble you are carved,
for a woman you are starved.
So back to flesh and sinew,
the fairest of them all will win you.
Of course, we've got cellphones and Kardashians now, so we're not going to sit through all that shit. If Maleficent wants to turn a dog into a cow, she just points at it and says, "Into a cow!" Now we're ready for the 21st century, though one hopes Maleficent avoids phrases like, "After lunch I went into a drugstore!" or "Rub some lotion into my feet!"

To protect Aurora, the king has his soldiers destroy every spinning wheel in the county, and he sends her to live in the forest. It's a little like worrying your kid will join a gang and sending him off to live in East L. A. One day, though, an attractive young man rides by. He doesn't have much going for him, giving off a wimpy vibe. They exchange a couple lines of dialog, but there are no sparks. Maybe this is feminist -- a girl doesn't fall for the first guy she meets -- but maybe this is weird. An audience should not be left thinking a movie would take a drastically different turn if somebody lived in the Bronx.

Of course, all-powerful Maleficent finds the girl, and before she knows it she learns to love her perky innocence. Which is lucky, because aside from that the girl's just got perky feet. Since she can't revoke the curse, she takes Aurora into the moors to protect her. Aurora discovers that Maleficent was the fairy who cursed her, so she runs back to the castle and her father, once again causing audience members to shout, "HEY, WASN'T THERE A FUCKIN' WALL OF THORNS?"

The king puts Aurora in a tower for safekeeping, just until her birthday is over. Unfortunately, though, she stumbles upon that big room where the king has kept all the semi-destroyed spinning wheels. Aurora pricks herself and falls asleep.

It's an incredibly intense two minutes before Maleficent finds Attractive Horse Dude and he's pressing himself up against the comatose stranger. She doesn't wake up, which leaves AHD confused, like it's good news and bad news. Before you can say "unwanted sexual advances," Maleficent kisses Aurora goodbye -- and that wakes Aurora up.

See, Disney has also updated "true love." It doesn't have to be a soulmate now! Which is good news, because between Grindr and autocorrect I'm losing boyfriends after a week or two. Now it can be some old lady who watches you from afar. That curse is a whole lot easier to counteract, though I don't envy the mental checklist that your friends and family members will have to run through: "Well, did he ever say 'Hi!' to the mailman?"

In the end, Aurora is named queen of both the kingdom and the moors, forever to be known as "Sleeping Beauty." Yup. A little weird: I mean, if I'd been nicknamed for something I did for two minutes, right now I'd be saying, "And that's another Movie Review from Mr. Puking Shrimp."


Yet Another Steve said...

Except for giving away the whole plot of a fairy tale that's been around for 300 years, it's a good review. I'd encourage you to review TITANIC but you'd probably spoil the ending.

RomanHans said...

I changed the last line for you, Mr. Poo-Phobic. (Okay, so it didn't actually make sense.)