While not terrible, Maleficent might have been better than it is.
To begin, it is over-reliant on voice-over, especially early, a fact that means it frequently tells instead of shows.
Next, given that the film considers people’s moral complexity, director Robert Stromberg and writer Linda Woolverton’s under-development of Stefan (Sharlto Copley) is problematic.
So is Copley’s performance. Much as in Elysium (2013), the actor’s over-the-top movements, facial expressions and vocal inflections render the character a caricature, not an interesting person.
Aurora (Elle Fanning, a tremendous actor wasted in this role) is as under-developed as Stefan. Here the character smiles a lot but does little else, facts that make it hard to understand why everyone loves her so. Then, when Aurora finally learns Maleficent cursed her long ago, she responds appropriately, only to suddenly, almost without provocation, reverse course. Why?
While many of the picture’s effects are visually impressive, they are too emphasized and thereby overshadow the story, such as it is.
Yet, Maleficent does not crumple, partially because Disney, following a trend they started in Frozen (2013), continues redefining true love.
But mostly because Angelina Jolie (the titular character) doesn’t letthe projectfail. Early, during the first battle sequence, she makes us feel her character’s anger disguised as determination. Later, after Maleficent has been betrayed in one of the worst imaginable ways, Jolie makes us feel genuine grief.
The trend continues. At every turn, Jolie makes this moviewatchable.
Too bad the rest of Maleficent does not equal its star’s quality.