Drama

Quickie Review 7: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

 

When the original Maleficent live-action film came out in 2014, it was a film that was a financial hit but was more polarizing with critics and fans. Some enjoyed this new take on the world of Sleeping Beauty, but others found it generic and tiring to turn one of Disney's most iconic villains into a misunderstood anti-hero, and the film is this big dramatic fantasy action flick. Still, it made a load of money for Disney, and if we have learned anything about this current industry, anytime a movie makes a lot of money, it automatically means people want a sequel. This is why we now have Maleficent: Mistress of Evil by director Joachim Ronning and writers Linda Woolvertons, Noah Harpster, and Micah Fitzerman-Blue. Hey, at least it didn't wait 10 years to get a sequel like Zombieland did. 

 

Anyway, the biggest problem that you have with making a sequel to a film that pretty much did what it needed to do is how they can progress the story in a meaningful way. Well, no one can say that they didn't try with all of their might and a few sprinkles of pixie dust to go all out with making an expansive world and universe for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. They introduce new magical elements, a whole hollow-earth-style world for the Dark Fairies to live in after being ousted by the humans, and everyone involved is, simply put, putting their all into it. They even try to set the entire film's reputation about Maleficent through the veil of propaganda, and I kind of like that angle. As usual, the best part of the first film and the second film is Maleficent herself, Angelina Jolie. She owns the role, and if she ever appears again in any other live-action or animated film for some reason, I want her as Maleficent. While the CGI effects are maybe a bit too good and the film was bright in some areas, I found the CGI to be excellent. Granted, the three fairies still look awful in their designs, but everything else? It’s way better than the first film. I even enjoyed the other actors in the film.

It’s too bad that Maleficent: Mistress of Evil has wonky execution of its ideas. Say what you will about the first film, but it at least tried something super different, and that's what this film should have done. Sadly, they had to keep it tied down to the Sleeping Beauty mythos, and it drags the experience down. Not that I don't get why they chose to do this, but for a film called Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, she's not all that evil, and she isn't the main focus of the film. Like some other films I have seen, it was a sequel that sidelines its character to focus on the side characters. I still stand that I love the ideas this film threw at me, but I don't think it knew how to fully expand on them. I was never a big fan of the villain from the original film, and that's no different here. While Michelle Pfeiffer was great to see, her character was maybe too on the nose evil for her own good? It results in the other characters looking stupid or not being able to read the room when she executes her plan of genocide to the fantasy races of the film. Sure, the third act action sequence is bombastic and pretty graphic for what's going on, but I was mostly bored by the uninteresting prince and Ellie Fanning as Aurora. The writing was not just a problem with the villain and everyone around her. I found it clunky overall, because of how it was trying to expand on the dark fantasy world that is made, and it being buckled down by having to be in the Sleeping Beauty universe. They throw in a lot of clunky comedic dialogue as well, and only a few of the jokes landed. It's a bunch of style with no substance, and that's a shame. 

 

It might be making money at the box office, but there is a reason why Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is not doing as well at the box office as the previous film. It's marketing itself as this big grand epic, and it’s epic, but it's also clunky, and Maleficent plays more of a secondary role in her sequel. In a lot of ways, I'm upset that this wasn't better, because they went out of their way to make something interesting, but didn't execute it properly. We don't get that many big fantasy female-lead franchises, and it might suck that this one may die on the vine, or give Disney some doubt into making the third film. It went bigger and tried to be better, but didn't do it in the areas that mattered most. If you are a fan of the original film, then I say go see it, but I understand if you want to wait to see it on Disney's new streaming service. This is a film I would play once, and then never again. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

11: Jojo Rabbit Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Recently, we have had a bit of a resurgence of people talking about comedy, and what is okay and not okay to joke about anymore. The main philosophy I go by with my style of comedy is that you can make a joke about anything, but if you can't make a joke about something dicey and “hot button” in nature funny, then don't do the joke. Many of the shock jock comedians complain about the current climate while having no sense of irony that they get paid millions for specials to spew shock humor. These are the same types of comedians that die by the wayside due to not being able to grow as comedians. I tend to find my favorite comedy individuals to be able to grow, expand, and still be funny and creative, while not punching down on other races and cultures. 

I bring this up, because so many film fans cry about how you can't make a Mel Brooks-style comedy today, but don't get the context and commentary that people like Mel Brooks use in their films. You can make a Mel Brooks-style comedy today, but you would have to make it work in today's climate. Many of the most iconic comedies and films are made in a time and place that just so happen to have the right people and the right kind of humor for its time. It's why so many of us were excited about today's review, Jojo Rabbit, a film written, produced, and directed by Taika Waititi. 

We follow a 10-year-old boy named Jojo Betzler, played by Roman Griffin Davis. He's a boy growing up in Germany during World War II, and is learning how to be a Nazi. He idolizes the ways of Hitler to the point of having an imaginary friend version of Hitler, played by Taika Waititi himself. However, while idolizing the views of the Nazi party, he's not really into it. One day, Jojo finds out that his mother Rosie Betzler, played by Scarlett Johansson, is hiding a Jewish girl named Elsa Korr, played by Thomasin McKenzie, inside their house. While despising her because of the propaganda he has been fed, he slowly starts to bond with the girl, and starts to question his ethics. 

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So, let's talk about the elephant in the room, the commentary and how it handles the Nazi party. Are we looking at a The Great Dictator, Dr. Strangelove, and the original The Producers, or are we looking at a Skin situation? Well, the good news is that we are on the side of the former. It’s more of a Wes Anderson-style film. While there is plenty to talk about with how Taika takes the power away from the Nazi individuals you see in the film, including how he portrays Hitler as this bratty 10-year-old version of what the boy thinks of the infamous individual, a lot of the heart and focus of the story is more about the dynamics Jojo has with his mother, the girl, and how he interacts with people, like Sam Rockwell's Captain Klenzendorf. It is a smart comedic drama that, like The Death of Stalin, does not shy away from the fact that this group of people did horrible things. 

 By this description of the film, it sounds like this would be a tonally challenging film, and yeah, I can understand that. When you have a film that balances out the mature subject material, but has a healthy dose of witty writing and comedy, it could easily be a mess. Luckily, this is Taika, and I found the balance to be great. It pulls back the humor too when it's needed, and it never felt like he had to force a joke into a scene that did not need it. I liked how he handled the characters. I think everyone is well defined and has layers to them. I know it's easy to see someone like Rockwell playing yet another racist character in such a short amount of time, but his character is more like a guy who's not enjoying himself and is trying to play tough. In a lot of ways, that is how Taika portrays everyone in the Nazi party, as a bunch of try-hard blowhards who are putting on a facade in a war they will soon be losing dramatically. Again, a lot of the time is spent upon Jojo and Elsa, and while it's not a Moonrise Kingdom-style romance, it's a story that shows a strong bond between the two kids that have grown up in different worlds. 

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 Jojo Rabbit was a delightful experience that I was fortunate enough to see at Fantastic Fest. It might not be for everyone, and I will not be shocked if you watch this film and not enjoy it, but I highly recommend checking it out at least once when it comes out in October. If you want Fox Searchlight, the distributor behind Jojo Rabbit to stay in a stable condition under the house of mouse, then supporting projects like this is going to be the right thing to do. It’s an experience unlike any other film this year, and I would definitely Play It Again!

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!