Disney’s Live Action Films: The New Straight to DVD Sequels

Last week I discussed how Disney animation might just be on the brink of a new renaissance. And today I’m going to talk about the exact opposite of that.

Why? Because Maleficent.

I could write a whole review on why this movie was bad, but if a picture is worth a thousand words then a gif is probably about a million. And this one just about sums it up.

God I love gifs.

Honestly, the thing could have been written by an eighth grader. An unimaginative, illiterate eighth grader.

But that’s not why I’m mad. Everyone is allowed to make a bad movie now and then.

I’m mad because they tricked me. Again.

They tricked me by using a brand name that I love — not Sleeping Beauty, but the most badass villain of all time, Maleficent. They hired the perfect actor to play her, they made the trailers look interesting, and they created the most chilling, eargasmic cover of a song that was ever made.

In short, they did everything right to make a great movie poster. And it worked. I really wanted to see this movie in the theaters. I was excited for it. And then they put exactly two shits of effort into the actual film. When I wasn’t facepalming over an idiotic, blatantly ripped off ending, or scratching my head at King Stefan’s mysteriously changing accent — I’m not talking Aurora-in-Once-Upon-a-Time accent slips, I mean he went from American with a mildly South African lilt to blatantly Scottish in about sixty minutes– I was yawning in boredom. It wasn’t just a couple of missteps. It was truly lazy writing that took the masterpiece it was based off of and defecated all over it.

Enjoy that mental image. And be grateful I didn’t include a gif.

The crazy thing is that Disney has done this several times before. Alice in Wonderland (Underland!?) and Oz the Great and Powerful (yet another movie where an iconic villain was just “going through a bad breakup”) were disasters of movies and yet I couldn’t help wanting to see them in theaters. Once again, they put effort into coming up with a concept and a look they could market into an intriguing trailer that would put butts into the seats, but didn’t care to actually make a decent movie that would do their legacy justice.

True, Saving Mr. Banks is a notable exception, but one only has to look down the pipeline to Cinderella and a horribly violated form of Sondheim’s masterpiece musical Into the Woods to see where the trend is really headed.

Disney, you’re on your way to something great with your animation department, and I’m happy for you. But that doesn’t mean you get to be lazy with the live action. You have such potential, kid, and we need to trust you again. You promised us the “Disney Difference,” and these movies suggest that that difference is not such a good thing.

I understand that all movies are meant to make money, and Disney has the right to make a profit in whatever way they think they can. But Disney has proven time and time again that quality is not an anathema to profit. Disney works best when they take risks and when they concentrate on writing a moving and compelling story. And these half assed brand-recognition films are about as deserving of the brands they come from as, well, these:

I just wonder how many times we have to have Disney pull the football out from under us before we finally learn.

As always, probably just one more time.