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Category:    Home > Reviews > Fantasy > Drama > Myth > Fairy Tales > Literature > Maleficent (2014/Disney Blu-ray w/DVD)

Maleficent (2014/Disney Blu-ray w/DVD)

Picture: A-/B Sound: B+/B Extras: B- Film: B

Disney in recent time has gone back to the 'wishing well' many times; resurrecting old material to reimagine it for a new generation. After successes like The Pirates of the Caribbean series, Alice in Wonderland, and a few others Disney has banked on older properties to peak viewers' imaginations. This is a formula that has (mostly) worked and continues to work here with the release of Disney's Maleficent (2014).

Maleficent follows the retelling of the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty, originally credited to Charles Perrault or The Brothers Grim; depending if you are reading the French or German telling respectively. In reality the tale is even older than that, dating back to the 14th Century. This is to suggest that the tale of Sleeping Beauty has been told many times before, in many different ways over the past 700 years; so Disney revamping a classic is nothing new.

This telling borrows elements from other renditions, but stays firmly rooted in 1958 Disney animated classic; keeping it family friendly, but giving a new perspective. Whereas in the original animated film audiences mostly were seeing the tale through the eyes of Aurora (i.e. Sleeping Beauty), in this 2014 rendition things are turned upside down as we see Maleficent's (Angelina Jolie) side of the story.

Maleficent is a film directed by Robert Stromberg (who worked on Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland and OZ the Great and Powerful) and a screenplay by Linda Woolverton (who also wrote Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King screenplays).

Rather than being the one dimensional evil queen as seen in the animated film; Stromberg and Woolverton give Maleficent a backstory and motive. The film (narrated by an elderly voice) starts us off in the Moors, a magical place inhabited by fairies, found bordering the human realm. Here a young peasant boy named Stefan befriends a young fairy named Maleficent. Stefan wishes to one day rise to power and live in a castle; a wish he expresses to Maleficent. Their relationship develops into 'true love,' but with time Stefan stops seeing Maleficent; he becomes a servant to the king and her a protector to the Moors. Eventually the king seeks to overtake the Moors, but Malificent defeats the king, fatally wounding him and causing his retreat. The king promises any man that kills Malificent shall be the successor to his kingdom. Stefan (Sharlto Copley) sees an opportunity, he visits his old love only to drug her and clip her wings; bringing the wings to the king as proof he had slain Maleficent. Stefan inherits the kingdom as Malificent is left crippled and bitter by the betrayal of her former love. Maleficent develops into a cold, oppressive ruler of the Moors; who will eventually seek revenge on Stefan.

On the day of his daughter's (Aurora) christening, Maleficent arrives uninvited to place a curse on the child that she on her 16th birthday would prick her finger on a spinning wheel, placing her in a deathlike slumber. Stefan begs for his daughter's life; seeing the opportunity for irony, Maleficent says the curse can only be broken by true love's kiss. Maleficent would spend the following years leading up to Aurora's (Elle Fanning) 16th birthday watching her from afar as she was guarded by three (bumbling) fairies. Something strange happens, however, as Maleficent watches the girl grow, something that could change everything...

This retelling of Sleeping Beauty is quite admirable and imaginative. The story flows nicely and though Angelina Jolie CLEARLY steals the show, the other actors do a fine job. The CGI is a bit obvious at times but is used appropriately and adds that fantasy flare that practical effects probably could not.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film and feel that Maleficent itself could stand the test of time to entertain many future generations.

The technical features on this new Disney Blu-ray are very well done. The picture is presented in a 1080p, AVC encoded, MPEG-4, 1080p 2.40 X 1 widescreen presentation that is visually stunning and near perfect. Certainly demo quality, the image is finely balanced with bright, but restrained colors that pop off the screen. The black levels are admirable as the film spends much of its time in the shadows; dancing between blue hues and dark inky blacks that display without artifact or other issues. The image is crisp, clean and clear throughout; and whereas not the best presentation I have seen from Disney, it is close to. The sound is a 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio that doesn't display as nicely as the picture despite being a Dolby Atmos 11.1 theatrical release where available, but remains solid. Directionality is well done as armies march across the screen, with swords clanging and arrows flying. Dialogue is crisp and clean; not obscured by the splendid musical score, both projecting in fine balance. I found the bass a bit heavy at times, but nothing overly distracting.

The DVD and Digital copies are merely downgrades of the excellent Blu-ray release.

The bonus material is average at best; not being overly revealing or insightful as it comes off as purely promotional. There are a few gems and an admirable amount of material for the first (non-3D) release. Extras include:

  • Deleted Scenes. Here we are treated to (5) deleted scenes that truly would have added depth to the film and its characters; which is not often the case with these. In this case, they are short clips that would not have extended the film by much, but would have fleshed out some unanswered questions.

    • Stefan in King's Chambers

    • Pixie's Seek Asylum

    • Diaval Asks About the Curse

    • Suitor

    • Pixie Idiots

  • Maleficent Revealed

  • Classic Couture

  • Aurora: Becoming a Beauty

  • Building an epic Battle

  • From Fairy Tale to Feature Film

- Michael P. Dougherty II


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