Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 in Shit: Maleficent

The strangest thing about Maleficent was that it ended up having the exact same issues with Benevolent Queeendom that made me sad about Wreck-It Ralph two years back. Maleficent ends with the least necessary coronation sequence since Ralph, and it's no less offputting then it was then. Except maybe it was a little more, because Ralph at least had things for me to geek out about. Maleficent just had the fact that it was a pretty great movie all told, with one or two really gratifying moments, and then a hot, dull mess for closure.

I remember being less impressed with Jolie in this movie than I'd expected to be, while also realizing how bizarre it was to have gone into a film with expectations of receiving an impression rather than of anything more specific. There's probably a fun spin to that statement but everything I can think of makes me feel like I'm a militant 14 year old with such opinions as 'society is bad' and 'all drugs should be legal' again* so I'll pass on those.

I also remember almost nothing about Sharlto Copley, except that I forgot it was him while I was watching the movie, which is just about the nicest thing I can imagine I'll ever say about the dude.

I also kinda remember geeking out a tiny bit at Jolie's horns, because at first I was like "why did they do her hair like that" and then I thought "wow those look incredibly artificial and shitty" and then the movie had been going for another hour and I was like "oh my god this was such a bizarre thing to commit to and I respect the fuck out of how weird and alienating on an incredibly small scale it has been even as it hasn't affected anything else about the movie for me" so I payed more attention to them than maybe I elsewise would have. Maybe that isn't quite geeking out.

There's a part of me that wonders if Maleficent isn't the purest work of detournement possible. The kind of thing that Debord would look at and smile at with a god damn you in his eyes. It's sort of a perfect movie in that way, even if the real Debord would've had no such reaction.

The big deal about Maleficent wasn't so much that it allowed a Disney villain the perspective of the film, but that it also followed through on that. It's been a long time since I've bothered with any of their famous animations, but it seems to me that the ways in which Maleficent tells her story is very much of a universe with how Aurora or White or Ariel tells hers. There was, if I remember correctly, some complaining about this critically; Maleficent telling her story in some ways made her character flatter, played boring sympathy cards heavy. A shout where a whisper would suffice sort of criticism. These sorts of moments are when the particularities of genre criticism become so useful; if you think of it not as a consequence of audience-pandering or stars or writers, and instead in relation to the rest of the Disney Animated (Princess) Universe, it becomes very easy to see how Maleficent's central argument is that everyone in the Disney Animated (Princess) Universe relies on a very rigid set of narrative tropes in order to justify to themselves why they have ended up where they have. Or, alternatively, that whoever is telling these stories from within the frame has this reliance.

I don't think I'm super down to go that much farther into that thread, though. I'll go back to memory.

I remember being super down with that final detournement, where Jolie's kiss is True Love's. I didn't think of it explicitly in terms of Situationism until just now, I guess, which makes it a lot weirder in retrospect. And I had a Benevolent Queendom to worry about then anyway.

Also, since we're back to that, it was especially offputting in that the initial characterization of the land Maleficent was from was encouragingly utopian. For whatever reason -- I guess maybe the reason is really obvious and tied to the observations about the Disney Animated (Princess) Universe above -- the happy medium between utopia and dystopia in this universe is a fucking monarchy? I don't know man. Videogames and fairies super don't need queens though.

I also remember being pretty into the first appearance of Angelina Jolie in the movie. From what I recall it was largely because it was clearly shot to be this euphoric moment of flight on film, and it wasn't bad at being that, but in a much sillier way than the cinematography seemed to intend. And then Jolie got her big close up on her face and it was also goofy (see: the horns, above). It was cool.

That's about it I guess. Disney Animated (Princess) Universe, narration, goofiness, socialism, detournement. Thanks for playing.

*Yeah okay I know.

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