Disney Live Adaptation Reviews – Maleficent & Cinderella

Maleficent Poster

Credited to sorkino3.net

I recently caught the latest Disney live adaptation films that were released in the years 2014 and 2015. I caught them almost back-to-back with Cinderella first followed by Maleficent (on TV!) but for the purpose of following a chronological order, we will start out by reviewing Maleficent first.

As everyone is well aware, either Disney is running out of ideas for new films or is just plain lazy, they’ve come out with a good business plan; churn out remakes of live-action movies of previously blockbuster making animated movies of the past.

Which is why, you now have the adaptation of Maleficent in 2014, followed by Cinderella in 2015. There was also the star-studded musical Into the Woods, but it doesn’t qualify as it was never a Disney animated movie first. This, on top of the news of the recently announced Emma Watson led Beauty and the Beast and Tim-Burton directed live action Dumbo. So while we already have many other studio-produced live action updated Snow Whites, Disney has to go through their extensive animated filmography for ideas. Now, the latest news is that we’re getting a Mulan live-action remake too. God forbid that one day we’ll be getting Toy Story, the live action versions. Perhaps fifty years from now, someone will see it fit that we’ll get a live-action Frozen too.

Maleficent Review:

Anyhow, let us go to one of the earliest modern live adaptation remakes that Disney made in the 2014-2015 period, which is Maleficent starring Angeline Jolie as the titular character. Angelina has explained that the character of Maleficent had always interested her more than the lead character of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, Princess Aurora as a child. In some ways, she’s right. Looking back, Aurora spent most of the movie sleeping (to be fair, she was under a curse) and at the end (spoiler alert!) ends up marrying Prince Phillip when he breaks her curse by kissing her with true love’s kiss after she’s only met him for a day. Alright, she was betrothed to him as a baby. Still, once again, she only knew him for a day.

Anyway, Maleficent opens with a young child Maleficent (Isabelle Molloy) befriending a young peasant, the future King Stefan (Aurora’s dad, played by Michael Higgins), falling in love with him and then later getting betrayed by him. He cuts off her magical wings, leaving her without the ability to fly. She later has a raven, Diaval (Sam Riley) in human form who acts as her eyes with wings. Maleficent (Angeline Jolie) who loved Stefan (Sharlto Copley), saw him marrying another and having a child with her. Wanting revenge, she shows up uninvited to Aurora’s christening and curses the child to yup, get pricked by a needle of a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday and fall into an eternal sleep. This is when King Stefan begs for mercy, even kneeling, pleading for his daughter’s life, and she relents by softening the curse wherein she will only awaken by true love’s kiss. This after Aurora has been blessed with gifts by her three god-pixies Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), Thistlewit (Juno Temple), and Flittle (Lesley Manville). The scene has been painstakingly created in real-life form from the original animated movie. Also, if you’re super hawk-eyed, keep a lookout for Angelina’s real-life children Zahara and Knox making cameos in the scene. But wait, how did peasant Stefan become King you say as a grown-up? Well, watch the movie (or read some spoilers, maybe even skip this review) and you’ll know.

Maleficent Christening Tumblr

Credited to 38.media.tumblr.com

King Stefan, now panicked and concerned over his daughter’s safety, orders all spinning wheels in the kingdom to be burnt. He also ensures that Aurora is raised by the three pixies (who are extremely unqualified BTW).

This is where the movie takes an extreme shift from what we know from the original movie. Instead of Maleficent (who immediately finds the hideout of Aurora (Elle Fanning) and her three pixie guardians in mere minutes. See how incompetent they are again?) plotting the next step in killing Aurora, as the girl grows up; she becomes fond of Aurora having seen the pixies that are raising her screwing at their job. Aurora, mistakenly thinking that Maleficent is her fairy godmother, is drawn to her. It is also here that Aurora meets with Prince Phillip (Brenton Thwaites) and the two are as chummy as any love struck teenagers are.


Credited to apnatimepass.com

Maleficent, ultimately consumed with regret, decides to reverse her curse, but it is easy said than done. So she tries to prevent it by asking Aurora to move in with her on the eve of her 16th birthday. Aurora agrees but just as she gets home, she overhears the truth regarding her royal lineage and ultimately flees to the castle.

Aurora’s biological father, King Stefan reunites with her and immediately has her locked up to protect her from the curse. Alas, the curse cannot be prevented and Aurora still ends up pricking her finger and falling into a deep sleep to be awakened by true love’s kiss. Maleficent rushes to the castle with Diaval and kidnaps Prince Phillip to break the curse even though King Stefan has traps lain out for her capture.

This is where I won’t spoil the movie for you and insist that you watch it yourself because it will lead to the ending. All I can say is, the character of Maleficent redeems herself at the end. As for my viewpoint of the movie, while this was Disney’s first modern live-action adaptation in 2014, I actually think that this movie really shouldn’t have been made. Yes, the character of Maleficent is an interesting character and Angelina Jolie did do justice to her role if only the character had been properly fleshed out. This should have been done with proper writing to the story. While the first half of the movie was good, the second half had the story losing direction. Yes, the movie humanises Maleficent by giving her the ability to love Aurora instead of going all out hating the King and his family as in the original animated version. Granted, the cinematography is exquisite. Alas, good cinematography does not what a good movie makes. The costumes and make-up are fantastic too. Unfortunately, it too does not help with the movie when the story is weak.

The second half was when all hell broke loose and everything was thrown all together. We had the battle with the dragon (an ode to the original?), battle with the King, a highly unnecessary and ineffective Prince Phillip, a hapless Aurora, and why were the pixies not fairies as in the original animated version? They even had different names compared to the animated version. If almost all characters in the animated version retained their names in their real-life incarnations, why couldn’t they do it with the pixies/fairies? What is wrong with the classic Flora, Fauna, & Merryweather names? Are the names offensive? They were super charming in the animated version. Granted, it’s perfectly okay to change certain plotlines to suit the needs of today’s extremely discerning audience, had Maleficent only been done correctly. Having a creative license means updating the story to be adaptable to a modern audience. Maybe, instead of focusing on turning Maleficent “good”, they should just have her made her stick completely as a villain. I believe that the movie would have been an incredible live-action adaptation had there been better writing and all-round better plot cohesion. Perhaps had they focused the movie on Aurora and called it a live-action Sleeping Beauty, it would have made a difference. I give Maleficent half points for a decent effort.


Credited to pinterest.com

Meanwhile, there are rumblings of a Maleficent sequel. Oh no, I hope the second time will be done correctly, or how about Disney just scrap the idea entirely?



Cinderella Review:

Cinderella 2015 Poster

Credited to comingsoon.net

As this is a continuing double movie review, I will firstly state that Cinderella is a much better live-action adaptation and an example of how to get a live-action adaptation movie done right. Cinderella, the leading-titled character, is played by Lily James, best known for starring in Downton Abbey and directed by Kenneth Branagh.

The story starts with the origin of a girl named Ella, who is born to a happily married couple who, as a child lives on an estate in a mansion, complete with servants. Her father (Ben Chaplin) works as a merchant and is always working far. Her mother (Haley Atwell) teaches her the value of loving animals and about being kind to others. This is the perfect setting of a family who live happily together and adore each other very much.

Alas, we all know that this happiness won’t last because if it did, there would be no story and would centre on a regular family who live together happily. That would be pretty dull to viewers but would be perfectly acceptable to me.

Anyway, to really follow the (original Disney) fairy tale, Cinderella’s mother has got to go. So Cinderella’s mother gets sick and dies. For a while, her father is fine raising her, though he does still keep working out of state a lot (someone’s got to pay the bills). One day, he announces to his daughter Ella that he has decided to remarry a newly widowed woman called Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) who has her own set of daughters who will be Ella’s new stepsisters. Ella of course is totally fine with that as she is completely kind to all, remember?

So the marriage proceeds. Having moved in the house, Ella’s new mother proceeds to “brighten” up the house by always holding social gatherings, of the poker type. Ella is just forced to watch while her father continues working outside. Ella would rather spend time with her animal friends. Her father, before embarking on another working trip, asks Ella and her stepsisters what to get for them when he comes home. Her new stepsisters immediately ask for materialistic things while Ella asks for a simple branch that brushes against his shoulder on the way to his destination. How very humble of her.

Credited to bp.blogspot.com

Cinderella (2015) Movie StillsWith her new husband away, Lady Tremaine has Ella switch her bedroom to the attic, to give way to her new stepsisters Anastasia and Drisella (Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera). The stepsisters aren’t necessarily evil; they are just rather rotten spoilt. One day, Ella receives news that her father has unfortunately passed away while on his journey. This puts the family in a conundrum as her father was the sole main breadwinner of the family. Lady Tremaine, realising the family’s (or hers?) reversed fortunes immediately see it fit to trim the household budget. She has the servants dismissed and of course replaces them with Ella. Hence, Cinderella is born, christened by her stepsisters after they see her face covered with cinders when she wakes up. Ella discovers the folly of Lady Tremaine’s ways, with her being banned to eat with them. Upset, Ella takes a ride on her horse into the woods.

family dining image of disney cinderella movie 2015 - movie screenshot movie scene-f59717

Credited to loveitsomuch.com

In the woods, she crosses paths with a hunting party. She meets one of the hunters, a handsome stranger who introduces himself as Kit (Richard Madden), an apprentice at the palace. Unknown to Ella, Kit is really the kingdom’s Crown Prince who’s father the King is dying. Kit is immediately taken with Ella after she chastises him for hunting the stag and her different outlook on life. She, to him, is just a breath of fresh air and possibly unlike any woman he’s ever met before. He does not get to learn her name as their meeting is brief before both head their separate ways.

cinderellabehindthescenes3Credited to comingsoon.net

Upon his return to the palace, Kit learns that his father the King is planning to organise a ball and invite all the eligible princesses as potential brides. Kit, who cannot forget the mysterious girl in the woods, persuades his father to invite all the eligible maidens in the kingdom as well in an effort to attract Ella. So the pronouncement is made and soon the entire kingdom knows about the ball.

While out in town on errands, Ella chances upon the proclamation of the ball and conveys the message to her “family”. Lady Tremaine immediately has new dresses made for herself and her daughters, ignoring Ella’s request for a dress as a way to cut costs. She orders Ella to return to town again and have the orders made. Lady Tremaine sees the opportunity for her daughters to woo the prince as a way to escape their current dire financial state. Undeterred, Ella fashions a new dress out of her mother’s old dress.

When the day of the ball arrives, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drisella are all ready to go when in bounces Ella with her new dress. The sisters taunt Ella on her apparently old-fashioned dress before, just like the Disney animated version, they tear up all of Ella’s hard work , leaving Ella’s dress in tatters before the three of them leave for the ball. Ella is in tears and rushes off crying to the backyard.

An old woman near the backyard asks the teary Ella for a drink of water. Ella obliges before, the reveal that the old woman is actually her Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter). Naturally, Ella is pretty pleased before good old Fairy Godmother, as the tale goes makes carriages, horses, and footmen out of animals and a pumpkin. Unfortunately, there is no bibbidi bobbidi boo song here. Saving the best for last, the Fairy Godmother gifts Ella an extremely gorgeous ball gown that is just, if not more beautiful than the one in the animated movie version. The Fairy Godmother does warn Ella however, that the spell only lasts till midnight and that she must get home by the time the clock strikes midnight. To this, Ella promptly agrees to do so.

At the palace, Kit is introduced to many eligible ladies but still holds out hope for the girl in the woods to come. The scene at the place where everyone is at the ball is exquisite. The costumes are breathtakingly beautiful and the set is just magnificent. Ella’s sisters try to have their time with the prince but fail. Then Ella arrives, fashionably late. She is a sight for sore eyes indeed. Kit immediately escorts her for a dance before they retreat to the “private” area in the garden where they talk it out to get to know one another a little better. However, it does not last long as Ella has to leave by midnight leaving Kit completely bewildered. He and his guards then set out on a furious chase trying to catch Ella but Ella luckily manages to escape before of course, accidentally leaving her glass slipper behind.
Cinderella-2015-Ball-Gown                      Cinderella546cd24774a4f

Credited to halloeweenideasforwomen.com                Credited to zannaland.com

Thus, the wild goose chase to find the owner of the shoe. It is decreed that every maiden in the kingdom try on the glass slipper for size. The Prince, now King after his father’s death, does not participate in this exercise, instead having his trusted henchmen do the job for him, complete with guards. It is kind of stupendous to believe that every maiden must try on the slipper. Wouldn’t it be easier had the Prince just describe his beloved mystery Ella for them? Again, it is all following the animated Disney version and the original tale by Charles Perrault.

Every maiden gets to try on the slipper without much success, even when it obviously cannot fit them. This is until they get to Ella’s house. Here is where I will leave you to ponder the conclusion until you find out by watching the movie in its entirety. I will say however that the King is revealed to be in the maiden-shoe search party.

Cinderella is a Disney live adaptation movie that works right when you focus on the original material while updating it so as not to make it too “wooden” like the original animated movie. Live-action Cinderella is just as sweet as her animated counterpart, but a little bit too passive. It would have been better had they made her a little bit feisty. Kit or the Prince’s character is more fleshed out here and details a great story of how he fell in love with Ella, unlike the animated version where he’s pretty one-dimensional and somehow we all believe that he gets Cinderella to fall in love with him and marry him. Just what did he do to her at the ball actually (Animated version)? Well, perhaps that’s why it was originally a Disney animated movie.