Maleficent

Maleficent (2014) by Robert Stromberg

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Let’s talk about Angelina Jolie for a moment. I have my problems with reviewing any of her movies, to be honest, even though I’ve watched most of them at the movies. It’s just incredibly difficult for me to look beyond her iconic status and see her work outside of it. I’ve been a fan since February 2001 when I first saw the Tomb Raider-trailer and that’s probably also around the time she became this iconic figure so I’ve rarely seen her without it. But we all know that she is a talented, incredibly able and dedicated actress. And I want to stress this point because Maleficent is probably her most iconic role to date – and it could have been a disaster if anyone but Jolie had played it.maleficent1

What happens:

An old tale with a new twist – Maleficent is a fairy living in a kingdom with other fairies and magical creatures just next to a kingdom where envious men dream of conquering that neigboring world they don’t understand. When a king (Kenneth Cranham) finally tries, he and his army are defeated and it is Maleficent as protector of her kingdom who is responsible for the defeat and the humiliation the king suffers. As he lies dying, he promises the kingdom to the man that kills Maleficent.

Stefan (Michael Higgins, Sharlto Copley)  who has been Maleficent’s childhood friend and first love reconnects with her but then betrays her. But since he is unable to kill her he cuts off her wings and takes them to the king – and becomes king in return. Maleficent swears revenge and makes herself queen of the beforehand leaderless fairy kingdom – a dark queen. She curses Stefan’s first (and only) child, Aurora (Elle Fanning), to fall into a deep sleep on her sixteenth birthday from which she shall not awake unless it’s by true love’s kiss (since Maleficent does not believe in true love anymore because it’s what Stefan had vowed to her it’s a mute point that Aurora will never wake).

maleficent4Aurora is send away by her father to live with three fairies (Juno Temple, Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville) who show such negligent care of the child that Maleficent feels the need to intervene just so that Aurora will live to see her sixteenth birthday. She unwillingly befriends the girl who thinks that Maleficent is her fairy godmother and as she grows attached to the girl she tries to take back the curse. She fails and has to watch as Aurora falls victim to it. She brings Phillip (Brenton Thwaites) to the castle – a young man who has met Aurora once and was enchanted by her – but his kiss does not wake Aurora. Only when Maleficent kisses the unconscious girl – grief-stricken over the fact that she couldn’t save her – Aurora wakes.

There’s loads of battle and awesomeness and Maleficent finally gets her wings back. In the end, Maleficent and Aurora unite the kingdom in what can best be described as a gay marriage ceremony (that’s open for interpretation and discussion). The Happy Ending.

Now, there have been a number of fairy tales lately who tried and failed at maleficent-poster2giving the old tales a feminist spin – Maleficent is not one of those. It’s also not a lighthearted, musical color-explosion that’s been ejaculated onto the screen. It’s not flashy, it’s not distastefully pointing fingers at mythical creatures in a ‘look how different they are’-kind of metaphorical way. It is what it is:

A tale about people. People who are flawed, who are cruel, who are obsessed, who are kind, who are trying so hard at being better. There is a wide range of human frailties at work here and most of them are displayed in Maleficent – the ‘villain’ of the tale – but they’re all displayed on the remarkable body of Angelina Jolie’s talent. She’s a playful fairy, a scary avenger, a violated woman, an action-hero, and a tender lover.

I don’t even have words for how magnificent Angelina Jolie is in this role. It’s the kind of role meets actor that you would wish for all of your favorite movies, the kind of combination of talents that comes along far too rarely. This is an epic movie, a movie that sets standards, a movie you will want to watch again and again because its pieces fit perfectly into a well-told story, a powerful drama, an exciting action movie, a love story that is rarely told in such a way (and yes, I’m talking about the love between Maleficent and Aurora and I’m not going to put a label on it). This is the movie you should watch if you were only going to watch one movie this year – you won’t regret it.

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The Tourist

The Tourist (2010) by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

I don’t know why it is that I have such problems posting about movies starring Angelina Jolie. I guess, I am starting to ramble much in presence of beautiful women and Angelina is stunning…

That said I may be able to continue, then again, this movie plays on her beauty, to her beauty. There is not a minute in this movie where a man does not look at her, after her. She is object of this movie, all scenes play toward her. It’s in your face! And this is something I do not necessarily like, maybe because it is a heterosexist way to portray her since it’s only man looking at her and the women look rather jealously than lustfully at her (which is ridiculous). It also makes the female viewer (and lesbian viewer) painfully aware of Laura Mulvey’s concept of every perception at movies being male perspectives. Though I don’t necessarily agree with Mulvey this movies seems to do so.

It does not look at Johnny Depp as an object (though some of the female viewers might), that is. But okay, enough of the academic analysis and let me say that I enjoyed the movie. Simply because there was nothing that was not enjoyable. The tone was light, the plot not too difficult to figure out, there were references to movies past (though Johnny Depp is not really a Cary Grant-character).

Maybe the movie treaded too carefully at times but then, I would not know what to do differently (unless maybe to have women ogle Angelina, and her wearing some snug jeans, but that’s just something I would have any attractive woman wear in movies). The movie is harmless, it does not make a deep impression, but it will probably make a lot of money (especially on the European market, we so love to see ourselves represented in American films!).

The reason I watched it was Angelina herself. I had already watched the trailer several times and it did not impress me that much though I would usually watch anything with Angelina in it. Still, I did not plan to watch this one. But I was coincidentally (yeah, this happens to me sometimes) near the movie theater in Berlin where the premiere was on Tuesday, and I happened to see the tip of her hair – twice… there were too many people in between us to really see her but… y’know, just the knowledge that there were only a couple of meters between us… it’s pathetic really but it is also uplifting to be so near someone you have admired so long and usually only see on the screen or staring from tabloid covers… so, yeah, I wanted to see what the fuss was about and went to see it the very next day. I couldn’t help myself but I guess that’s what these premieres are for… I wasn’t prepared, though, for the overindulgence of Angelina Jolie I got from this movie. Sometimes less is more, y’know.