Cinelinx takes in Disney's new Maleficent Blu-Ray!
This review covers the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack.
A new spin on the legend of Sleeping Beauty is the basis of this tale, told from the point of view of the evil fairy Maleficent (Angelina Jolie). Also stars Elle Fanning and Sharlto Copley.
Directed by Robert Stromberg.
Before its release, the trailers for Maleficent teased a fascinating premise: a famous story told from the point of view of the villain. Even better, Angelina Jolie seemed perfectly cast as the ill-fated Maleficent, perfectly capturing both the character’s elegant beauty and sinister malevolence.
With the film now releasing on Blu-ray, we can now judge the film with a little more hindsight. Jolie certainly delivers as the title character; she not only reminded us of the cynical evil that defined the animated Maleficent, she gave her live-action version the added depth it needed. Jolie is, without a doubt, the best reason to see this movie, and her performance is buoyed by a solid supporting cast. Elle Fanning does well in the role of Aurora, but like the original animated version, the character doesn't have the dimension it needed. While her chemistry with Jolie is interesting, you’ll wish there was more interaction.
However, Maleficent falls short of the promise that we saw in the trailers. Rather than telling us a side of the story we never saw, Maleficent turns the story completely on its head. Obviously, I expected some changes to the tale and some liberties to be taken, but the story of Maleficent is nearly the exact opposite of the Sleeping Beauty tale we know. Maleficent is actually the good guy (or gal), and King Stefan (Copley) is the real villain, having betrayed the love he shared with Maleficent when they were young. Stefan, in fact, is quite evil, whose greed and determination to conquer Maleficent’s kingdom leaves him detached from the queen and Aurora.
Even the three fairies entrusted to protect Aurora get a bad makeover. Instead of being lovable but absent-minded, they are complete idiots who nearly get baby Aurora killed on more than one occasion (don’t worry, as Maleficent is there to save her). The three actresses playing the fairies (Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, and Juno Temple) even get the weird CGI-animated look while in fairy mode, which will remind you of the heavy-handed CGI in the recent live-action Alice in Wonderland. It’s one of the few instances where the CGI is needlessly distracting.
I don’t mind the changes in principle, but they are so heavy-handed that they feel like a betrayal of the story rather than an enlightenment. Besides, what made Maleficent such a popular character was her absolute evil and her sardonic tone. Although Jolie still makes Maleficent an engaging presence, giving her good intentions and motivations makes her less interesting overall. You still want to root for her, but not to save the day. You’re hoping she somehow avoids her fate that the original tale lays out. Since the story is so different, however, you won’t have to worry about things playing out that way. The film is a bit darker and serious than one would expect, so very young children may not care for it.
It really is too bad the changes dominate how the film is perceived, because at its core, Maleficent is an entertaining film. However, since it relies so heavily on the original animated film as inspiration, the changes overshadow the positive elements. Yes, the film does suffer from an overabundance of CGI and the tone is uneven at times, but Maleficent is hardly a bad film. If you can get past the changes, you’ll likely enjoy it more than I did. Perhaps at some point this film will be appreciated for what it is. However, so long as it continues to be compared to the animated classic, it will only remind you of everything it isn't.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
Disney gives us a fantastic video transfer for the Maleficent Blu-ray. Blacks and shadows show excellent detail, and colors are solid. Too often, high definition transfers expose sub-par CGI effects, but here, the virtual and tangible elements blend almost perfectly.
The audio includes a 7.1 DTS-HDMA track, and while clarity is fine, it seems too much of the soundtrack runs through the center channels. It makes for a pretty crowded mix, and the surround effect isn't as strong as I had hoped. It isn't a bad soundtrack, but it could have been better. Most viewers won’t notice the difference, but audiophiles might take issue.
Recently, many studios have released their blockbusters with bare-bones extras, so they can release a special edition set later down the line and milk fans for more disc sales. Thankfully, Disney put some effort into Maleficent’s extras; they aren't all-encompassing, but they are extensive enough to give fans a nice look behind the scenes. An audio commentary would have been nice, but the featurettes and deleted scenes that are included are satisfying. All the extras are available on the Blu-ray, but the DVD only includes the “Aurora: Becoming a Beauty” featurette. Special features include:
“Aurora: Becoming A Beauty” This five-minute featurette features an interview with a giggly Elle Fanning as she discusses playing the role of Princess Aurora. Interviews with producer Joe Roth and Angelina Jolie, as well as some behind-the-scenes footage also highlight the piece.
“From Fairy Tale to Feature Film” This eight minute featurette follows the Maleficent legend and how the film is crafted from elements of the original fairy tale. Filmmakers and Jolie all discuss how the original tale, the animated classic, and several new concepts all came together to form this new take on the Sleeping Beauty story.
“Building an Epic Battle” Maleficent features a grand battle between humans and the creatures of The Moors, and this six-minute featurette explores the creation of the scene. An impressive mix of practical stunts and visual effects, every element of the battle scene is broken down and explained.
“Classic Couture” The fantastic headpiece worn by Jolie in the film gets a once-over in this quick clip. It only runs about a minute and a half, but it provides an excellent look at the piece.
“Maleficent Revealed” Some of the film’s key shots are presented here, mixed in with behind-the-scenes footage that shows how practical and CGI effects were used to create the final shot. It runs nearly five minutes.
Deleted Scenes. Scenes include Stefan in the King’s Chamber, Pixies Seek Asylum, Pixie Idiots, Diaval Asks About the Curse, and Suitor. The five deleted scenes included on the disc are no throw-away shots. Rather, they expand on the story nicely. They were likely cut for pacing and time issues.
Digital Copy. A digital copy of the film, which is compatible with iTunes, Disney Movies Anywhere, and Ultraviolet, is included.
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Rating: PG (Action and fantasy violence, frightening images)
Running time: 97 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio (for the visually impaired), French 5.1 Dolby Digital, and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Special features: “Aurora: Becoming a Beauty” featurette, “From Fairy Tale to Feature Film” featurette, “Building an Epic Battle” featurette, “Classic Couture” featurette, “Maleficent Revealed” featurette, Five deleted scenes, Digital copy.