This is the first movie I’ve ever seen where, when I was trying to figure out why I just didn’t like it, the word solipsistic flashed to mind.
Bear in mind that I probably wouldn’t even know that word if it hadn’t been for a GURPS game supplement describing a particularly nasty species of cannibalistic xenomorph shapeshifter whose innate outlook was that other sentients weren’t really real. (Therefore, chow down, other minds don’t matter.)
And that, unfortunately, is the mindset the movie reminds me of. The special effects are beautiful, the scenery is grand, the dragon – well, dragons! But special effects are not a story. And in the story, no one but Maleficent seems real.
(The guy playing Diavel tries. He’s the best part of the movie, that cranky crow.)
Why does the first evil king attack the Moors? Because Maleficent. Why does the second? Ditto. Why do the three fairy godmothers come to bless Aurora, when the last two human kings have been attacking and killing fairies? Movie apparently doesn’t know, and doesn’t care. I swear, those three got more characterization in the Kingdom Hearts games than in this movie.
Which in a roundabout way brings me to the other game supplement this movie reminded me of; a bit from White Wolf’s Changeling: the Lost, Equinox Road. That book details the game setting’s most creepy and inhuman antagonists, the True Fae. And it points out they actually need humans – or at least changelings – to play parts in their stories. Otherwise they’re playing all of the roles themselves, and it’s about as life-sustaining as breathing your own breath. Without other characters taking independent actions, there is no element of risk – and without that, there’s no story.
And that’s the real problem with Maleficent. No one else in the story has an existence that doesn’t revolve around her. No one has a problem that doesn’t loop back to her. (Including Maleficent, curse and all.) She’s “the hero and the villain”. And in the end the only one who opposes her is – well, her.
Real life doesn’t work that way. So despite all the shiny, the movie falls flat.
I can’t help but think an anime could have told the same story in 60 minutes or less, and given everyone more characterization. Ouch.