Since I was little, Maleficent has always been my favorite Disney character. When I went to work for Disney, the hiring manager asked me who my favorite character was and why. I had lots to say about my favorite fire breathing villain. She was powerful, cunning, and a snazzy dresser with Diablo, the Best Pet Ever. She was also great with rope and candles. Ahem. (No, I didn’t say anything about loving the scene where she ties up Philip and appears to threaten him with dripping candle wax, but oooooh! I wanted to!) Sigh.
Maleficent was an unapologetic evil doer. A woman who, if she had any reasons for being sore, they were probably because she just liked being bad. Later, as I worked at Disney for several years, I noticed that I wasn’t alone. She consistently won our online polls for “Favorite Disney Villain.” People loved her just as she was. But Disney culture is not allowed to promote villains. I was told we just weren’t allowed to focus on the villains except at Halloween.
One would have thought I’d be very excited about a movie starring the bestest baddie. When the first trailer was vague and dull, I worried that Disney had abandoned its role as stewards of good storytelling in favor of creating Big Dumb Fun for the Whole Family.
I was right.
It Was Shite
A friend used this term when describing the many problems with Disney’s new movie, Maleficent. For me, some of these problems I noticed right away, while others occurred to me later. Most of them stem from the very premise, which is that Maleficent was never actually a bad fairy, but rather a good fairy who did bad things because some big fat jerk betrayed her. In trying to preserve any semblance of the original film, Disney instead has created a broken world with an even more broken plot line.
This is NOT a critique of the actors (who were largely fun) or the special effects (which were gobsmacking). Angelina Jolie did a tremendous job with what she was given. (I will, however, bitch about the bizarre, wandering accents that were starting to drive me crazy by the movie’s end.) And Rick Baker killed with those makeup effects. Damn, that man is amazing! While I might be prejudiced because I love ravens, I confess that I loved Sam Riley as Diaval. I ate up almost every scene he was in.
Why did so many people enjoy the film, then? I think people walked out liking this movie because it had some funny lines, dazzling visuals, and the adorable Aurora cherub glowing at them for two hours.
It’s interesting that many of the people I talk to and reviews I’ve read incorrectly state that Maleficent cursed Aurora to death (she curses her to “eternal sleep” only to be awakened by “true love’s kiss”). They also incorrectly state that Stefan was the king’s son, when he early on says that his parents are dead and the only way he can get ahead is by pleasing the king somehow.
I don’t think this is an accident. People are subconsciously pasting their old memories of the animated film onto this one to make the story work because it doesn’t.
So, let’s get on with it. And if you disagree? Don’t care. This is my rant and not the place for you to defend this wretched film. Do feel free to add additional logic problems I might have missed, however.
[muh-lef-uh-suhnt] Show IPA
doing evil or harm; harmfully malicious: maleficent destroyers of reputations.
1670–80; back formation from Latin maleficentia maleficence; see -ent
That’s the definition of “maleficent” on Dictionary.com.
Her name fucking means something. On Thesaurus.com, there are
This is a fucking problem. You need to address why someone in fairy land named an innocent child Maleficent if she really was, in fact, Beneficent. It makes no sense otherwise.
So, once we get past the fact that Disney has decided none of us speak English, use the dictionary or give a shit about names, we can proceed to the other 99 major flaws in this film. Such as…
WHAT MEDIEVAL ARMY DOESN’T HAVE ARCHERS?!?
What a bullshit battle. An army without archers is a plot cheat.
The film doesn’t follow the logical conclusions of its own fairy lore regarding the effects of iron. As we learn in the beginning of the film, iron hurts fairies. Arrowheads of iron or steel could have seriously hurt “the forces of nature” in two New York seconds. Bury an arrowhead in one of those trees? It’s going to be in agony. Also, STEEL IS AN ALLOY OF IRON AND CARBON. Any of the blades used in that initial battle would have also hurt the fairy things if they had landed a blow.
We see Maleficent get burned by Stefan’s ring when they’re kids. Sure, it does no lasting damage. It just kinda goes stingy-stingy, and then gets better when he takes it away. I didn’t mind that except we don’t see Stefan use even that morsel of knowledge until the very end of the movie. He could have won favor with the king much earlier had he revealed that fact. They might not have had a total victory after that initial battle, but it would have been enough that the king would have listened to Stefan going forward.
And just imagine if they’d used fucking archers. GEE.
You don’t want your precious baby girl to fall into an “eternal sleep” when she turns 16? Well, then you sure as fuck don’t send her to live with incompetent fairies who don’t even know how to feed her BECAUSE SHE’LL DIE OF STARVATION INSTEAD. In the original Disney movie, the competent, motherly fairies take Aurora away to hide her from Maleficent. By making Maleficent Aurora’s BFF, we’ve now not only lost the logic in sending her away, but now we don’t even have the suspense of the original film, trading a sense of real danger for a Maleficent that’s been bitten by The Mommy Zombie. I mean, I get it. She put a shitty curse on an innocent baby. She feels guilty. (Gag.) Yet somehow she knows more about taking care of children than pixies? Really? STFU.
The baby stalking still doesn’t make any sense. Why isn’t Maleficent plotting the death of Stefan or the ruin of his kingdom? Doesn’t she have better shit to do than sit around watching Aurora, the kid she’s cursed? Despite the story synopsis being touted by the studio, Maleficent NEVER has the epiphany that Aurora is the key to peace between the kingdoms. NEVER EVER. It’s a lie to hide the shite story they actually developed.
And how did the pixies not notice that Aurora was gone most of the time? Why didn’t one of them follow her, you know, ALL THESE YEARS to find out who the hell she’s spending her time with? Yeah, I get they’re ditzy and always fighting. But seriously? For 16 years they’re just totally fucking incompetent and don’t notice that she’s missing AND consorting with the enemy?
Let’s Talk About That Snarky, Half-Assed Curse
Before I dive into what a failure this movie is as a feminist story despite its warmed-over Frozen moment, I feel compelled to point out that her curse sucks. The original curse works storywise because of its gravitas. This newer, watered-down, snarky curse doesn’t have the impact of the original because we never feel like Aurora is really in danger. Death? Yeah, that’s scary! “Eternal sleep” with a possible cure? No. In the fairytale, it’s the third good fairy who gives us hope, NOT THE SO-CALLED VILLAIN.
Certainly, the fairytale was creepy and awful, with Lancelot even raping Sleeping Beauty in the French version. Fairytales are sexist and bloody. But fairytales also have some great psychological teaching moments. The best sort of moment like that is in Sleeping Beauty. When the king and queen fail to invite Maleficent, it’s a psychological play starring the superego and id. It’s a warning that, if you don’t invite the “negative” aspects of your psyche into your life, bad things will happen. Your development will be arrested. You will “fall asleep” to your life. It’s not until you fall in love with yourself (true love’s kiss) that you can wake up again to resume living and growing.
The great teaching moments that Walt Disney captured and preserved so beautifully in the animated film have now been destroyed with nothing to replace them. Nobody gives a shit about real storytelling. All they care about is what looks good in 3D and what justifies marketing plushies.
Please stop saying this is a “feminist” movie because of that stupid Frozen moment. STOP already. You sound dumb.
Maleficent was a FAR STRONGER character before this film version. Turning her into an estrogen-poisoned, guilt-ridden baby sitter did not in any way strengthen her, nor did taking away her ability to turn into a dragon, and especially not by putting her at the emotional and physical mercy of some jerk-dude. Every change made her weaker, not stronger. (P.S. Having a conscience doesn’t make you “stronger.” It makes you normal.)
What’s worse is that Maleficent is naively susceptible rather than rightly suspicious of Stefan’s motives when he comes back to the Moors so many years later. Why is Maleficent so amazingly stupid? Don’t say “love,” because that love story was shite. Stefan has the personality of a wooden plank. Surely there are dude fairies who are more interesting, more handsome and more dedicated to Maleficent. Instead of being wary like any other grown woman would be, she totally lets him drug her and cut off her wings.
(How does he even know that human drugs will work on her? She doesn’t need to eat. We never even see her drink. So, WTF?)
Further, replacing fairytale romance with bad romance isn’t “feminist.” It’s just lame. Arguably, romance is highly feminist. Romance is vilified in literature and movies because it gives women what they want. (But that’s another blog post entirely.)
Making Maleficent bad only because some man was mean to her takes away her agency. She’s now a crippled victim seeking vengeance rather than the awesome fairy with “all the forces of Hell” at her command who had been slighted by a monarchy. A woman scorned is weaker than a woman with an ego because she’s given away her power to a dude. Sure, she’s a protector of the Moors and apparently she’s strong enough to make everyone there cower when she’s angry. But she isn’t a tenth as powerful in the new film as any of her previous incarnations.
Spinning Wheel Corpses
If you are really, really paranoid about spinning wheels, YOU BURN THEM TO THE GROUND AND BURY THE ASHES. You don’t lock up the half-burned wheely corpses somewhere in your castle. That’s just fucking stupid. They should at least have been able to think of a logical reason that there would still be a spinning wheel around. This is just appalling writing. I mean, grind up the fucking things. What are they made of? Metal? Then melt them down for chrissake. Jesus. This was incredibly annoying — more annoying even than the quasi-equipped medieval army. Could this movie make even less sense? (Yes. Yes, it could. And did.)
The Very Bad Room We Just Happen to Stumble Into
As Maleficent and Aurora are running around in the castle, they just happen to stumble into the One Very Bad Room that can hurt Maleficent with its big iron net. It’s not a necessary room to enter. It’s not where the wings are even stored. They just happen to stumble into this Room. What would Stefan have done if she’d never entered that room? Clearly, he’d put all of his tactics there, both troops and tricks.
This lazy plotting bothered me, especially when it was Diaval who was turned into the dragon rather than Maleficent. And it wasn’t that great of a dragon, either: It’s wasn’t the magnificent black and purple dragon that breathes green fire and stands taller than the castle. He becomes a dragon just big enough to fit in the Very Bad Room and breathe fire. Fire that doesn’t heat up the iron net and hurt Maleficent even more.
The Frozen redo moment is simply lame. We JUST saw this, like, a movie ago. And it worked far better in Frozen because it’s foreshadowed by the relationship Elsa and Anna shared as children, as well as the wise counsel that Elsa gives Anna when Anna announces she wants to marry a dude she just met. Here, it’s a gimmick. I don’t care if this was supposed to be the idea all along. It plays like a shell game because of Maleficent’s unconvincing Mommy act. (But, oh, they buttered up our ovaries with that toddler knee-hugging scene, didn’t they?) I had to wonder: Did Maleficent fall victim to the second fairy’s blessing? If so, how was she even able to produce the curse to begin with? Does anyone really love Aurora? Or are they all enchanted? It’s effectiveness relies far more on our sensibility than sense: we just want Aurora to be okay because Aurora has been pumping up our sentimentality with the rouge of her apple cheeks the whole damned movie.
Okay, I’m Done Bitching Now
I could go on, but I’m tired. God, this was a mismanaged, broken story. Most of the critics over at Rotten Tomatoes agree. But hey — now Disney has the green light to market Maleficent in ways they couldn’t before. She’s a heroine now, not a villain. She’ll get a plushie and everyone at Disneyland will be wearing horns.