Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Year 8, Day 13 - 1/13/16 - Movie #2,213

BEFORE:  I'm feeling comfortable with my decision to not follow the Reese Witherspoon link out of "Inherent Vice", now that I know I can link to nearly everything else, and there could be other opportunities to link to the film "Wild" down the road.  Knowing I can hit the next 2016 blockbuster if I just stick to my current plan is very encouraging.  
Tonight, Juno Temple carries over from "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For", and I start a 4-day chain of films with Angelina Jolie.  I don't have too many chains of four or more in the works, except one with James Garner this month, one with 7 Samuel L. Jackson films in March, and then ones featuring Liam Neeson and Burt Reynolds some time after that.  I think one might be forming up with Steve Coogan, though, maybe around May.

THE PLOT:  A vengeful fairy is driven to curse an infant princess, only to discover that the child may be the one person who can restore peace to their troubled land.

AFTER: This is a take on the "Sleeping Beauty" story, one that sets out to prove that the villain in that story wasn't a villain, for some reason.  Who benefits from this confusion?  Right after I got done watching "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For", where it was very easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys, along comes this new take on a fairy tale to muddy the waters.  It's like the opening crawl from "Star Wars: Episode III" which described the Clone Wars with the lines "There are heroes on both sides.  Evil is everywhere."  Huh?  You just told me in the last film that "Jedi and clones good, Separatists bad" - how can there be heroes on both sides?  Just who am I supposed to be rooting for?

I'm just not buying this tonight - OK, so maybe fairy tales are simplistic, and villains are often cartoony stereotypes, but they still fulfill a purpose in the story.  They are opportunistic, selfish, they lust for power, and they quickly tell the kids that there's evil in this world, and this is who the hero's going to be up against.  By reducing Maleficent to the status of a crazy ex-girlfriend, I think it belittles her to no small effect.  She casts a curse on Aurora and what, regrets it five minutes later?  That doesn't make her a good fairy, she still did an evil thing, and needs to be judged on her actions.  

And apparently, once a fairy casts a curse, she can't undo it, even if she really really wants to. What kind of magic is that?  And what's the point of working in a back-door solution to the curse, if you're not going to allow that solution to work, in the end?  Someone had an agenda here, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what it is.  As a result, Maleficent ended up being a very confusing character - one day she's this, the next she's that, she curses Aurora but then watches over her from afar. 

True, there are villains who have a shot at redemption - Darth Vader and Ebenezer Scrooge come to mind, but that's probably because of the films I watched at the end of December.  But should we go back and re-make James Bond films and suggest that Blofeld was just misunderstood?   Or Norman Bates, Hannibal Lecter?  I guess the Alien and the shark in "Jaws" were just hungry, so they're out, and they already explained away the motivations of the Wicked Witch of the West in "Oz the Great and Powerful", so there just aren't that many great villains left in movies, I'm afraid.  Dracula and the Joker, and that's it - don't even get me started on the Terminator or Ultron.  ASIDE: My wife's reaction upon seeing Kylo Ren in "The Force Awakens" was, "So, the new Darth Vader's just a whiny emo brat?"

And I'm all for turning fairy tales on their side, because that worked so well in "Shrek", but now I think there has to be a valid reason to do so.  And in "Into the Woods" there were questions raised about whether the evil giant was in fact evil, or just a giant.  But I'm not sure there was one here, no one was really calling out to redeem the villain from "Sleeping Beauty".  And now just last week it seems like Disney's going to do a back-story film for Cruella de Vil, most likely giving her a similar tragic past to try and make her more sympathetic.  For god's sake, why?

I'm also going to raise the same point I made yesterday, with the character from "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" that was very, very lucky.  Here one of the fairies blesses Aurora with "eternal happiness" - is that really such a good gift?  Do you want someone to be happy all the time, like even when their life is collapsing around them, or someone broke their heart?  Then they'd really be certifiably crazy, no?  

Also starring Angelina Jolie (last seen in "Gone in Sixty Seconds"), Elle Fanning (last seen in "Super 8"), Sharlto Copley (last seen in "Elysium"), Lesley Manville (last heard in "A Christmas Carol (2009)", Imelda Staunton (last seen in "The Girl"), Sam Riley, Brenton Thwaites, Kenneth Cranham, Isobelle Molloy, Michael Higgins and the voice of Janet McTeer (last seen in "Velvet Goldmine").

RATING: 3 out of 10 tree people

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