The critics disagree on this one, but one thing is clear - "Maleficent" is a lot better than it could have been.
Maleficent is a live action Disney film, which stars Maleficent – iconic villain, witch extraordinaire – as an almost cuddly redeemed hero. By the laws of gods and men, this film shouldn’t work and even Angelina Jolie’s name didn’t seem likely to save it. But some miracle of film production must have happened along the way, because the critics actually seem to like this new incarnation of our favorite villainess.
Angelina Jolie delivers a complex and thriliing performance as the villainess.
The Hollywood Reporter’s review notes the great origin story, which helps to humanize Maleficent and make her into a relatable protagonist. In that respect, Angelina Jolie does great work with the role. “Angelina Jolie doesn’t chew the estimable scenery in Maleficent — she infuses it, wielding a magnetic and effortless power,” Sheri Linden writes about Jolie.
Variety’s review focuses on the visuals more so than the story. In terms of animation, there is little to pick on with Maleficent. While “the film often lurches where it ought to flow, rarely latching onto the proper rhythm,” according to Andrew Barker, the visuals are where first time director Robert Stromberg really gets to flex his muscles. “2014 seems unlikely to produce many more visually arresting, brilliantly designed, stoned-college-kid-friendly pieces of eye candy than Disney’s Maleficent,” Barker writes.
Alonso Duralde of The Wrap couldn’t disagree more. “While the visuals fall prey to some unpleasant trends in modern moviemaking — several CG characters have an ugly misshapenness that recalls “Jack the Giant Slayer,” and the magical forest lands resemble a toilet-paper commercial — “Maleficent” throws out much of the original tale's bathwater without losing the baby.” Duralde refers to the movie as “entertaining as it is bold,” but all the credit goes to screenwriter Linda Woolverton and Jolie’s acting, while the visuals are “aggressively unpleasant.”
The rest of the cast, headed by Elle Fanning as Aurora, are slightly less memorable.
So opinions on Maleficent so far vary across the board. While it might not be entirely appropriate for children, however, grown up Disney nerds will surely get a kick out of this dark reimagining.