Friday, 30 May 2014

REVIEW - MALEFICENT (ROBERT STROMBERG)


It is the vogue at Disney these days to throw computers at everything and let CGI do all the heavy lifting. And to what end? Consistency of vision? Alas, the essence of live-action filmmaking is that real people and real objects are photographed by real cameras, and no matter how seamless the compositing, these real eyes of yours and mine can spot that fundamental inconsistency in each and every frame. The overload of visual effects in Maleficent is at the expense of true, tangible production. There's barely a brick or a blade of grass that feels like one could reach out and touch it, in 3D or not, in person or in the front row. Barely so much that feels like the actors could either. It's shallow spectacle, designed to dazzle us; director Robert Stromberg is, himself, a whiz with both CGI and real-life production design, though his team here falls short on both. That's the kicker: even their computerised creations lack imagination, and are repetitive. This alternative version of the famous Sleeping Beauty story wisely elects to root its narrative deviations in thematic elements, not in arbitrary attempts to distinguish Maleficent as a unique and purposeful 're-imagining'; thus, it actually becomes exactly that. Linda Woolverton doesn't only stray from archaic convention, she also strays from contemporary convention, readjusting our expectations and our requirements from a Disney blockbuster. She gets away with a lot of her clumsiest dialogue in modelling Maleficent as fairytale stock to its core, though this is undoubtedly one aspect of her writing which needs similar, serious readjustments. As the titular villain, Angelina Jolie is mesmerising, commanding the screen with a stillness that is equally stoic and charismatic. She conquers the hefty emoting with ease, and displays a deadpan humour that tops even her grandest hissy fits as film's fiercest fairy. Maleficent's strongest asset isn't CGI. It's flesh and bone.