Disney’s live-action fairy tale, Maleficent performed well this Summer in the box office and now it’s coming home to blu-ray very soon. I got the chance to check out the blu-ray ahead of it’s release and am here to help you decide whether or not it’s worth picking up and adding to your shelves at home.
I never got around to seeing Maleficent in theaters when it initially released. The Summer is always a hectic time for us here and it’s one of the few that managed to slip through the cracks. I’d heard good things though and was eager to check it out when Disney sent me the blu-ray.
It’s certainly a fairy tale style of movie, and with that comes both good and bad aspects. On the plus side, it’s a very easy story to get into filled with interesting characters, and a theme that stays consistent throughout (I’m always happy when a movie has a message to give). The negative, however, is that the adherence to the fairy tale structure doesn’t really give the story or characters much room to grow overall.
Aside from Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent (which was incredibly well played and I can’t highlight that enough) all the other characters remain static and unchanging. There’s no personal journey from them and they remain mostly the same as they were throughout the entire film. That’s pretty much how fairy tales work, in that aside from one primary character who learns a valuable lesson, everyone else are simply there to be in the background.
As such, the acting has a hard time shining through in any significant way. While it’s not necessarily bad, it feels as though all the actors were told to play specific archetypes and NOT deviate from that. There are times where performances come off as wooden or lifeless, but it’s not from a lack of talent. This is a persistent problem in fairy-tale type movies and it was also the biggest issue I had with Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Slayer.
This made it really tough to connect with any of the other characters on a level beyond, “hey they’re interesting”. At times it affected the story a little as well, in that it’s formulaic nature made it fairly easy to predict, without a lot of tension moments. I never doubted what would happen by the end, and that it would have a happy ending, because that’s how this kind of movie is set up.
Again, these things aren’t necessarily bad, or make the movie unwatchable, but it keeps the film from achieving greatness and being something truly spectacular. On the whole, however, the story is still very enjoyable with some surprisingly adult themes about letting go, forgiveness, and finding a reason to keep living. I enjoyed it while watching it, and I think it’s a fun film that’s entertaining for the entire family.
While it sounds like I’m only discussing it’s problems, the film isn’t bad...it just isn’t GREAT either. It’s a solid film that could have been more had it shook off some of it’s structural issues.
Picture and Sound
Maleficent offers up some seriously impressive visuals. There are a bunch of fairy tale creatures in the film of all shapes and sizes, and the creature design on the film is wonderful. The visual effects for Maleficent as she uses her powers are sleek and evocative of the original Sleeping Beauty cartoon. I was very impressed with all the VFX work in this film, and it’s all transferred wonderfully onto the blu-ray format.
There are a lot of bright colors in the film, especially on the fair-land side of the woods, and the blu-ray makes all of them pop and look gorgeous. The blacks are deep and there’s not a lot of screen-crush going on. This is great because when things turn south, the film goes for darker hues and colors, providing a nice visual contrast that the blu-ray picks up well. Disney didn’t skimp on the color pallette for this movie, and fortunately it’s all captured excellently for your home viewings.
The sound design on the film is equally impressive and captures the feel of the surrounding fairy-tale creatures in ways that make the world seem real and tangible. The problem I had, however, is with the balancing on the blu-ray. I found myself having to adjust the volume up and down multiple times as the movie shifted from dialog to action. The action was way louder than the dialog track. While it may seem like a minor issue, constantly grabbing the remote throughout the film takes me out of the viewing experience in big ways.
The Special Features
These bonus features come packed on the disc:
From Fairy Tale to Feature Film - Reimagining Maleficent for a new generation
Building An Epic Battle –Creating the clash between Maleficent and King Henry's Forces
Classic Couture - Examine Maleficent's spellbinding head wraps and jewelry
Maleficent Revealed - Explore the layers of extraordinary special effects
Aurora: Becoming A Beauty - Elle Fanning reveals her lifelong love of Disney's original animated classic.
"Stefan In King's Chamber"
"Diaval asks about the Curse"
"Pixies Seek Asylum"
Disney normally brings the goods when it comes to the special features on their discs, and it’s a highlight of just about any release they have. I wish other studios would take some notes from them as a couple deleted scenes and trailers aren’t really all that exciting in terms of bonus content.
Maleficent is no different in this regard and brings some fun bonuses in the form of their behind the scenes material. Hearing some explanations on the changes between this film and the original Sleeping Beauty story is interesting, along with some great breakdowns on the designs and final VFX work. All in all there’s some great content here for fans of the film or mythos in general.
I enjoyed the film for what it was, but it’s formulaic nature will likely keep me, personally, from watching it more than a couple more times down the road. It’s still worth watching, but if that’s how you feel about these kinds of movies, a rental may be better for you. Overall, it’s one of Disney’s better live-action outings in recent memory.