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Maleficent (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

October 26, 2014 by  



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“Maleficent” is moving, captivating and was more than just a pleasant surprise, it was a visual experience demonstrating wonderful acting, special effects and costume design. And the “Maleficent” Blu-ray release is no doubt one of the top live-action Blu-ray releases I have seen in 2014! Definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2014 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Maleficent

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 97 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio), English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 descriptive audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital with subtitles presented in English SDH, French and Spanish.

COMPANY: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

RATED: PG (Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children)

Release Date: November 4, 2014

Directed by Robert Stromberg

Written by Linda Woolverton

Based on the motion picture “Sleeping Beauty” by Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Ted Sears, Ralph Wright, Milt Banta

Based on the Story “Little Briar Rose” by Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm

Executive Producer: Sarah Bradshaw, Don Hahn, Angelina Jolie, Stephen Jones, Palak Patel, Matt Smith, Michael Vieira

Associate Producer: Lori Korngiebel

Produced by Joe Roth

Music by James Newton Howard

Cinematography by Dean Semler

Edited by Chris Lebenzon, Richard Pearson

Casting by Lucy Bevan

Production Design by Dylan Cole, Gary Freeman

Starring:

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent

Elle Fanning as Aurora

Sharlto Copley as Stefan

Lesley Manville as Flittle

Imelda Staunton as Knotgrass

Juno Temple as Thistlewit

Sam Riley as Diaval

Brenton Thwaites as Prince Phillip

Kenneth Cranham as King Henry

Hannah New as Princess Leila

Isobelle Molloy as Young Maleficent

Michael Higgins as Young Stefan

Ella Purnell as Teen Maleficent

Jackson Bews as Teen Stefan

Explore the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain in this wickedly fun twist on the classic “Sleeping Beauty.” In an unforgiving mood after a neighboring kingdom threatens her forest, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) places an irrevocable curse on the king’s newborn daughter, the Princess Aurora. But as the child grows, Maleficent finds herself becoming fond of the girl. And as the conflict between the two realms intensifies, Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land. Journey beyond the fairy tale in this soaring adventure that is “visually arresting, brilliantly designed” (Andrew Barker, Variety).

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In 1959, the world would fall in love with “Sleeping Beauty”,  the 16th film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series.  Based on “The Sleeping Beauty” by Charles Perrault and “Little Briar Rose” by the Brothers Grimm, “Sleeping Beauty” would become not only a box office hit but also a Disney classic.  And as for the film’s antagonist, Maleficent, she became one of the iconic Disney antagonists.

Fastforward to 2010 and Angelina Jolie (“Salt”, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith”, “Changeling”) had been cast to play Maleficent and writer Linda Woolverton (“The Lion King”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Alice in Wonderland”) came up with a story after discovering material that Maleficent was originally a fairy.  This would lead Woolverton to create the past of Maleficent and how someone so good, could lose her wings and become evil.

Set to direct the film was Robert Stromberg, best known for his visual effects work in films such as “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”, “The Hunger Games”, “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “The Golden Compass” and many more box office hits.  Award winning cinematographer Dean Semler (“Dances with Wolves”, “Cocktail”, “Bruce Almighty”) and composer James Newton Howard (“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, “Michael Clayton” and “ER”) would also become part of the film.

Joining Jolie as part of the cast are Elle Fanning (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Super 8”, “Deja Vu”), Sharlto Copley (“District 9”, “Elysium”, “The A-Team”), Sam Riley (“Control”, “On the Road”, “13”), Imelda Staunton (“Vera Drake”, “Much Ado About Nothing”), Lesley Manville (“Another Year”, “Vera Drake”, “Secrets & Lies”), Juno Temple (“The Dark Knight Rises”, “Atonement”) and Brenton Thwaites (“The Giver”, “Oculus”, “The Signal”).

“Maleficent” was released in theaters in May 2014 and the film that would be created for $180 million, would become a box office hit, earning over $757 million worldwide.

And now “Maleficent” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD by Walt Disney Studios Entertainment in November 2014.

“Maleficent” begins with a narrator talking about how two kingdoms that were the worst of neighbors and it was said that a great hero or terrible villain would one day bring them together.

The human kingdom were discontent with the wealth and beauty of their neighbors and a kingdom run by a greedy king.

The other kingdom was the Moors, a magical realm and had neither king or queen and lived in peace as they trusted one another.

We are introduced to a young winged fairy named Maleficent who heard from three pixies Flittle (portrayed by Lesley Manville), Knotgrass (portrayed by Imelda Staunton) and Thistletwit (portrayed by Juno Temple) that a human has entered the Moors and has stolen a jewel from the Pool of Jewels and has been caught by the border guards.

When Maleficent comes across the boy named Stefan, Stefan returned the jewel and the two become friends.  Stefan and Maleficent both share something in common, they both no longer have parents.  And when Stefan finds out that Maleficent is weak against iron (iron burns fairies), Stefan throws his iron ring out and tells her that one day, he will live in the castle.

She was moved by Stefan and for many years, the two would eventually meet with each other and become good friends and spend time with one another and eventually fall in love.  On her 16th birthday, Stefan gave her a kiss and told her it was true love’s kiss.

But as the year’s past, Stefan’s (portrayed by Sharlto Copley) ambition to be at the castle had prevented him from visiting Maleficent (portrayed by Angelina Jolie), while Maleficent became the new protector of the Moors.

When King Henry sends his soldiers to attack the magical creatures of the Moors, but all are defeated by Maleficent and the border guards.

With King Henry injured and wanting a successor to the throne, he tells his men that whoever can kill Maleficent, will become the successor and become king.

For Stefan, his ambition to live in the castle and to become king is too great, even greater than his feelings towards Maleficent.  When he goes to the Moors to visit her, Stefan pretends to be the man that she had fell in love with.  But instead, while they are together, he gives her a sleeping potion and cuts off her fairy wings.

Maleficent can not believe what Stefan had done to her.  Although she no longer has wings, she takes a black crow and turns him into a man named Diaval (portrayed by Sam Riley). Diaval can turn to a crow and easily spy on the kingdom for Maleficent and gives her news that he has become the new king due to cutting off Maleficent’s wings but to further her anger and push her towards a darker side, she is told that he has married a woman and she has given birth to a baby girl.

One day, as Stefan and the Queen are celebrating the christening of their baby, Maleficent has shown up and curses Stefans’ daughter Aurora, in that on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, which will then make her fall into a death like sleep.  No magic can remove this curse, but only true love’s kiss.

This would eventually drive Stefan into madness as he wants nothing more than to crush Maleficent.  Meanwhile, his daughter Aurora is sent to live with the three Pixies for 16-years in hopes that she does not prick her finger on a spindle and all spinning wheels in the kingdom are kept in a hidden room.

But as Maleficent has nothing but dislike towards the young Princess Aurora, she watches her from afar.

But over the years, watching over Aurora, will the princess eventually win Maleficent’s heart?

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VIDEO:

“Maleficent” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1 aspect ratio).  Everything about this film screams “reference” video as picture quality is absolutely amazing.  Close-ups show amazing detail, especially when it comes to Malificent’s horns, the feathers on her wings, the dresses of the pixies, to the amount of detail for the magical creatures living in the Moors.  Skin tones are natural, despite the heavy use of CG, the film looks amazing in HD and I detected no signs of artifacts, banding or heavy use of DNR.

There is no doubt that “Maleficent” is one of the better looking Blu-ray releases of 2014 and is indeed, reference quality!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Maleficent” is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 descriptive audio, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital with subtitles presented in English SDH, French and Spanish.  Because of the sheer amount of battles between the two kingdoms, you can easily depend on your surround channels to be active, especially your subwoofer via LFE.  From the stomps of the border soldiers, the screaming that comes from the soldiers and the various creatures that go against the human army.  The fluttering of the Pixies wings or even Maleficent’s wings during flight, this is just a few of the examples of the fantastic use of the 7.1 channels during the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Maleficent” comes with the following special features:

  • Aurora: Becoming a Beauty – (4:53) A featurette with Elle Fanning talking about being a princess and working on “Maleficent”.
  • From Fairy Tale to Feature Film – (8:10) A featurette on the cast and crew discussing how the felt about working on “Maleficent”.
  • Building an Epic Battle – (5:48) A featurette on how the battlefield sequence was made.
  • Classic Couture – (1:34) A short featurette on the creation of the headrest and horns for Maleficent.
  • Maleficent Revealed – (4:45) A short featurette of how various scenes were filmed and create and how CG was utilized throughout the film.
  • Deleted Scenes – (6:41) Featuring five deleted scenes.

EXTRAS

“Maleficent” comes with a slipcover.  The Blu-ray release comes with a DVD and a code to watch the film in Digital HD.

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I must admit that prior to watching “Maleficent”, I was rather cautious about Disney trying to capitalize on another title and try once again to provide a backstory of what led to someone becoming evil.

Seeing of what happened with “Oz, the Great and Powerful”, the first thing that came to my mind when it was announced at D23 Expo that a movie based on the “Sleeping Beauty” antagonist, Maleficent was being made.  Needless to say, I was skeptical.

And with the film being left to visual effects designer, Roger Stromberg, as director,  I was even more skeptical.

But I did have faith in the writing of Linda Woolverton and the initial shots of Angelina Jolie as Maleficent would eventually win me over and I decided to see how Stromberg/Woolverton would eventually win us over, especially with this backstory of how Maleficent turned evil and sure enough, they succeeded.

There is no denying that having Roger Stromberg as a director, he knows what he wants to see visually, but also knowing that beyond great special effects, you also have to have a strong story and I was captivated by the story of a young Maleficent falling in love with a young Stefan, but then seeing for myself of how something so beautiful and pure as Maleficent, would feel defiled after the person she truly loved, would eventually hurt her tremendously.  And as each time that Stefan’s actions would hurt her, we would see Maleficent change and become colder, darker until no love existed in her heart.

The magical land of the Moors is absolutely gorgeous with its fairies and pixies and magical creatures, plus the hideously but powerful border guards that protect the Moors, the visual effects was absolutely stunning.  From the visual effects of taking the three Pixies and making them human and back, there is great amount of detail that went into planning for the clothing that went into this film, the production and costume design were top notch and also the makeup design, especially with Maleficent’s dress and her protruding cheekbones, I was captured by not just the story but the film’s visual effects.  And I believe the efficacy of this film is thanks to Roger Stromberg’s experience in big budget, heavy visual effects-driven films.

And of course, going back to the story, I found it interesting to see the Maleficent and Princess Aurora storyline and wondering if the film would be consistent with its first half without being too happy, and we eventually get to see how Maleficent would start to care for her, even though she has watched her from afar and originally loathed her.

If anything, there are a lot of messages within “Maleficent”, that makes great sense and many points that I would like to discuss more but can’t, without spoiling the film.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Maleficent” looks absolutely gorgeous in HD.  The amount of detail is well-done.  From the detail of Maleficent’s horns, the detail on the dress of the three Pixies and seeing each crease or each little flower, I was quite impressed.  The CG magical creatures from the Moors are equally impressive and the combination of CG fantasy and its many human actors are well done.  I saw no artifacts, nor did I see any banding issues or problematic situations with the video.  Skintones are natural, colors are natural and black levels are nice and deep.

As for the lossless soundtrack, the film is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and you can hear everything from Maleficent’s wings, her shriek when she finds out what Stefan had done to her, the roar of the boarder guards, the surround channels are active and there is also very good use of LFE.  And as for special features, you get a good number of special features on how the film was created and more.

I will say that as “Sleeping Beauty” will forever be a Disney animated classic, “Maleficent” is a film that goes beyond Disney storytelling of fairytales and the typical “happily ever after” cliche of a prince coming to save the day.  Truthfully, if we were given an ending tale similar to the animated classic, I would have complained about how much I detested the film.

Instead, I can easily say that I enjoyed “Maleficent” as the skepticism that I felt prior to watching the movie, had easily dissipated with seeing a strong female role, a storyline that was not afraid to step into the darkness to showcase why pure woman such as Maleficent would become evil. In addition to fantastic visual effects and wonderful costume design, the flm left me in awe. Definitely, this film was much better at explaining how one can be good can turn evil, vs. the storyline that was seen for the wicked witch from “Oz, the Great and Powerful”.

Overall, “Maleficent” is moving, captivating and was more than just a pleasant surprise, it was a visual experience demonstrating wonderful acting, special effects and costume design.  And the “Maleficent” Blu-ray release is no doubt one of the top live-action Blu-ray releases I have seen in 2014!

Definitely recommended!






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