Silvia Moreno-Garcia | Maleficient
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Maleficient

There’s a Kickstarter for a Lovecraft fairy anthology on right now. I’m one of the writers for this. So, go support it then come back and read this rant. Okay?

Maleficient is a bad movie. Here I will detail why and what changes I would make, for your pleasure. And yes, there are spoilers, I guess.

  • First mistake: We open with Maleficient as a child, a winged fairy and she is called…Maleficient. MISTAKE. “Mal” means evil. This should be Maleficient’s alternate identity after she goes bad, not her birth name! Super-villains don’t come out of the womb with names like Magneto or Two-Face. They acquire them *later.* Clearly the production team figured we are fools who couldn’t figure that Mamon or Marged or whatever name you might like giving this lady, would become Maleficient.
  • The first half hour of this film is boring and unnecessary. It is exposition. We don’t require it. This is basically fan fiction and when you write fan fiction you don’t need to sketch out every aspect of the universe and the characters, because we already know this. Rather than beginning with Maleficient’s childhood the movie should have opened with a teenage Aurora meeting Maleficient for the first time.
  • This is another mistake. In the film, Maleficient is a nice lady who had known and protected Aurora all her life. She is so nice there is no tension and since we already know her background there is even less tension. But if you open with Aurora at 16 meeting Maleficient and we haven’t seen the young fairy before there is tension. Fear. Is this woman going to hurt Aurora? Trick her? What is happening? How did she become evil? All of this can be revealed in flahsback and…
  • … Maleficient should NOT be good. She should twisted by loneliness, bitterness, rage. Her meeting with a teenage Aurora should change her, though. It should change both women BECAUSE…
  • … Aurora should be a sheltered girl. She has been kept in this little cabin all her life and told about the scary forest where an evil fairy lives. But she wants to explore and she is eager to find out what lies in the forest. It’s a typical beginning for a story, sure, the teenage heroine trying to find herself, but it is efficient.
  • How do Maleficient and Aurora meet? She finds an opening through the thorn barrier and walks into the forest. The forest should be scary, not like we see it in the movie. The movie *tells us* the forest is no longer the beautiful place of the days of Maleficient’s youth, but that’s not what we see on screen. We see flying dragons and weird little creatures that look adorable. But the forest should be tainted by Maleficient’s rage and Aurora should walk into a scary, almost Gothic world. Creepy BUT as she gets to know it and Maleficient better she also appreciates its beauty. This should be a discovery (we can see some of the old forest in flashbacks for contrast).
  • We shouldn’t know how Maleficient lost her wings until later on in the movie, nor her relationship with Aurora’s father. These are secrets that must be unwoven during the film, via flashback and conversations so that when Aurora discovers the hermit Marged is the evil fairy Maleficient she has been warned about all her life it should come as a true to shock to her and should also be a moment of discovery for us.
  • This is a movie that tries to be about female relationships but doesn’t quite get there. Aurora and Maleficient should get to know each other slowly, but we should also see Aurora’s relationship with her overbearing aunts, who love her but don’t understand she is no longer a girl. And we should see more of Aurora’s mother, who dies off-screen in the movie because nobody cares about her. Turn the tale into a tale of mothers and daughters, and the difficulties in such relationships so that by the time Maleficient turns “good” it has a real emotional resonance.
  • Maleficient turning “good” rather than being all-good at the beginning gives you more dramatic power, btw.

What is good in the movie? Jolie, who looks gaunt and oddly beautiful. A pity she doesn’t have enough material to chew on, though she makes the best of it.

There have been several fairy tale movies in the past few years. Snow White and the Huntsman was another failure, as was a Red Riding Hood movie. The best fairy tale movie remains The Company of Wolves, which understands its source material while giving it a feminist twist. Maleficient does not accomplish the same thing. Not that it matters. It’s already a hit. Good writing is not necessary for a successful movie.