Release Date(s)2014 (November 4, 2014)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: D+
Retconning, prequel-ing and sequel-ing classic fairy tales is all the rage these days. Now the studio that has made its bread and butter taking fairy tales and making them its own, Disney has finally gotten in on the sequel and prequel game. Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent here gets an origin story that attempts to bring her from a cartoon caricature of villainy into a more believable three dimensional world. The result is part Snow White and part inexplicably good mash-up of Hansel and Gretel meets Blade.
Unlike most “now you know the true story” movies, which are typically an excuse for lazy writers’ hijacking a pre-beloved property to make the movie they want to make, the creators behind Maleficent spend a lot of time building the parts of the world we’ve never seen or read about before. The characters here, their motivations, and even the black washing of Maleficent’s character by loyalists, all make sense within the context of a fairy tale and I enjoyed the hell out of the result. Perfect casting, particularly Angelina Jolie and the Faries, adds to the foundation here. Sure, Maleficent is not a perfect film, but it’s a solid piece of entertainment.
As with most films these days on Blu-ray, the A/V presentation of Maleficent is terrific. There’s a lot of illusion in Angelina Jolie’s makeup, thinning her face even further to more closely match the animated character, and the careful color-grading that makes that magic work is perfectly preserved. Maleficent is a character-driven film, and as such was never destined to be a sonic window rattler. The brief battle scenes have the appropriate oomph, but the majority of the film concentrates on ambiance. World building is an under-appreciated aspect of sound design. But now that lossless audio is standard on disc, both at home and in the theater, audio engineers can be more certain that the audience can actually hear all the little bits and bobs that they’ve spent so many hours layering into your aural experience.
The bonus material on this Blu-ray is highly disappointing for a movie with such a dynamic star and costuming. All we really get is a series of vignettes that last on average 3-5 minutes each – the kind of stuff you catch as a bumper on the Disney Channel when a show runs short. Just at the moment the participants start to talk about something interesting, like the development of Maleficent’s costume or the fact that the only child they could get to come near her in the getup was her own daughter, the vignette ends. There’s not even a commentary track or a gag reel here to please fans. It’s sad that one of the biggest worldwide movies of the year – one that’s tailor made for a really good documentary – pricked its finger and fell into a death-like sleep on Blu-ray.
Sadly, Disney has continued the pattern it started with Frozen, releasing the 3D version on Blu-ray everywhere but in the United States. While rumor has it that this decision was made to allow for a double dip, the reissue of Frozen as a sing-along DVD only leads me to believe that future dips may be a long time coming.
Maleficent is a great movie presented to A/V perfection on Blu-ray, but the anemic bonus package makes it hard to recommend for fence sitters at full retail. We can only hope that Disney will find reason to do better with their Blu-rays in the future.
- Jeff Kleist