As a cameo, Jolie's performance might have proven spectacular; but as a protagonist, she doesn't give us enough to hold onto. For all her efforts, she remains yet another special effect, however spectacular.
Maleficent doesn't reinvent any wheels when it comes to the fairy-tale genre -- but the fairy tale already comes with pretty hardy wheels, and this sweet, child-friendly adaptation creaks along on them quite nicely.
[It lacks] the sort of nightmarish visions that made Walt Disney's early animation features so powerful. This looks impressive, though, making use of highly imaginative, state-of-the-art 3-D effects while still evoking old-school Disney animation
I'm still not sure if the movie's smack-down between patriarchy and matriarchy is the way to go, but at least nobody here is warbling about what she wants before hitting the road to self-actualization.
The direction by Robert Stromberg is an immediate mess. A long-time special-effects whiz making his filmmaking debut, he crowds every scene with gimmickry; the opening CGI landscapes are so overdone they look like bad cartoons.
Maleficent feels classical in nature. The characters are boiled down to their essentials, the humor is timelessly broad, and Jolie's at her best when she's curling her claws and elongating her vowels like a black-sabbath Tallulah Bankhead.
Uncertain of tone, and bearing visible scarring from what one imagines were multiple rewrites, the film fails to probe the psychology of its subject or set up a satisfying alternate history, but it sure is nice to look at for 97 minutes.
The aggressively unpleasant visuals certainly detract from the overall film, but Maleficent makes for a fascinating entry in an ongoing wave of projects that give "bad" women of literature a chance to present their side of the story.