Monday, March 17, 2014

Maleficent Legacy Trailer

The newest poster. There were a number of "looks" for Angelina Jolie's Maleficent film makers attempted before settling on this one above (not to mention she appears to have several in the various trailers we have seen, going from a rather humble brown garb to this more stylized black ensemble). More than any of the others, perhaps, this makes Maleficent appear as a vampire, noticeably due to her deathly pale skin, the volumes of black material, the shocking red of her lips and animal eyes (yellowish-green, most unnatural which is fascinating given that she presides over the moors, i.e., the environment, the forest and nature itself; in other words, the "defender of nature" doesn't appear to have anything natural about her; just in passing, we still don't know if Maleficent will turn into a dragon or not, I can't imagine them leaving out that part of the film, but perhaps they will?). Contrasting with the original animated Maleficent, Jolie's changes throughout the film--we know that we will see her as a little girl who then grows up and is betrayed--and, even after Aurora's christening, she changes outfits (we see her in a cape with a heavy fur collar on it). We know that black is always the color of death, but there is good death and there is bad death. Good death is the spiritual life, when one becomes dead to worldly things so as to pursue the spirit rather than be enslaved to the flesh; bad death is being dead to the spirit, the needs of the soul because of a pursuit of the world (for example, drug addicts or sex addicts, but there is also the pursuit of power or one's political agendas, like the Apostle Judas who turned Jesus over to the Temple priests). The "collar" coming up around her neck appears like the leaves or petals of a flower, with her head coming out causing her to resemble of "black orchid of death." We know the neck symbolizes what leads us or guides us in life--like a leash--and she has a black band around her neck even though she has a rather low-cut dress. So, she looks like a flower of death, again, emphasizing the unnatural element. She does, however, retain the horns, the headpiece she wears, regardless of the outfit. Again, as we have noted, the point in the film when she begins wearing the horns, and if she ever takes them off, will be imperative in understanding how to directly interpret them, however, we can make some general observations. We know that hair or hats symbolize the thoughts, because the head is the place of the brain, from which our thoughts originate, so anything tangible on the head is in some way meant to communicate the thought patterns or direct thoughts that character is having. Maleficent's hair is completely covered up (just in this poster, not always in the trailers we have seen) and the material is black and, because of the sheen, it appears to be some kind of synthetic material (again, another example of the "unnatural" from the one protecting the moors and forest). The bottom of the head-piece comes down on her face in a dramatic widow's peak, accentuating how high up the "horns" go, and their "inward bent." Her thoughts, then, are of death, but, of a particular kind of death. Her horns resemble a goat's and the goat is a traditional symbol for the devil, not to mention that it implies the animalistic, like her eyes. We could say, then, that more than any other aspect of her costume, the head dress links her to hell, and even, in doing hell's work. Again, even with all the trailers that have been released, it's still too early for me to accurately say which way the film is going to go (conservative or liberal) so it's possible that Maleficent is a conservative capitalist who, according to liberals, is killing the environment and doing the devil's work (we did see that in The Conjuring, after all).
The film has generated quite a bit of interest.
Recently, more of the storyline has been released and it's worth our attention:

Maleficent explores the untold story of Disney's most iconic villain from the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty and the elements of her betrayal that ultimately turn her pure heart to stone. Driven by revenge and a fierce desire to protect the moors over which she presides, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the human king's newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Aurora (Elle Fanning) is caught in the middle of the seething conflict between the forest kingdom she has grown to love and the human kingdom that holds her legacy. Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land and is forced to take drastic actions that will change both worlds forever.

The spinning wheel scene. It's imperative to note in our comparison, that in the original 1959 Disney version, there was not an actual spinning wheel, rather, Maleficent caused a spinning wheel to appear in a green vapor/mist/fog, but it was real enough for the princess to prick her finger (an act we will discuss soon). The image above borrowed the visuals from the original of the king ordering every spinning wheel in the land to be burned, as we can see them discarded above. We have all ready spoken of this image at some length, with numerous possible scenarios to be played out, however, if Aurora is going to be dominantly recognized by the spinning wheel (i.e., the textiles industry) and Maleficent uses it to curse Aurora in order for Maleficent to protect the "moors over which she presides," (which invokes Shrek and the swamp he was wanting to protect) we have to ask if this isn't about good and evil so much as industry or the environment. Even as the film makers want to assure potential audience members that they are following the original animated version, we have all ready seen a number of differences and the role of the spinning wheel might be one of the most important (but it's also important to note that the images we have seen of Maleficent in the forest retreat makes it look like her forest is dying).
Another trailer has just been released today with a bit of new imagery, but the repeated images are just as important as the new moments; why? Film makers want to insure that we are identifying something very specific with this film, in particular, the closeness and similarities with the animated version, through which so many of us became familiar with the story.
In this trailer, the first difference between the original and new versions, is in how Maleficent makes her appearance at the christening: in the original, Maleficent enters in a puff of wind and green vapors; in the new version, she appears to come through the door. I would like to suggest--and we will cover this in more depth closer to the May release--that the 1959 version related Maleficent to The Wizard Of Oz's Wicked Witch of the East who entered Munchkin City in a red cloud. If Maleficent just enters the castle, we will have to ask, is there someone who just walked right in and laid a curse upon the country?

Green is usually either the color of hope--because the world becomes green in the rebirth of a new spring--or the color of something rotten, something that has gone bad. In our world today, there is also the political consideration of "going green" to save on energy and participate in earth awareness programs. This might be the more fitting attribute by means of which to interpret Maleficent if she is a symbol of the environment.
Now, at about 1:06, Maleficent tells Aurora, "There is an evil in this world," which is interesting, because "maleficent" means "evil." Throughout the film, then, we will have to identify what Maleficent identifies as "evil" and what we the audience identify as evil (which will make for an interesting philosophical discussion). 
Another detail, but one that might prove important, in the divergence of the animated from the new version, is the side of the bed from which Prince Philip kisses Aurora in her slumber (again, we will discuss this in far greater length shortly). In the animated version contained in the trailer above, the Prince leans over Aurora from her right side; in the new version, the Prince leans over her from her left; why the change? No offense to those who are left-handed, remember, this is art, not our daily lives. The right side signifies strength, what we get strength from, where we invest our strength, whereas the left-side is more emotional, even our weaker side. In the animated version, we might (this isn't definite, just a theory) say that her love for Philip was what kept Aurora going and all she looked forward to; in Maleficent, Aurora's love for Philip might be taking second place to her royal position and power and what she wants in life; Philip is important, but he might not be the most important thing (if it weren't important, the kiss would not have been left in the film).
One other note I would like to present, again, on a color symbol: at 0:21 in the trailer, a blue butterfly lands upon Aurora's nose and she sneezes. As you know, blue is the color of both wisdom and depression, because our life's experiences from which we glean wisdom are often the sad experiences. The blue butterfly, a pollinator, is probably symbolic of Aurora being able to glean wisdom from life's joys (like a butterfly landing upon a flower) and life's sadness (the curse upon her and her royal responsibilities). This scene is just a few seconds long, so we will have to have more, but it's one more detail to investigate.

Angelina Jolie weighs what, 87 pounds? She's incredibly thin, but the volumes of black fabric in this costume add to her bearing. It could either mean that there are "layers" to her evil, or layers to the cause of her evil intentions, or the remarkable lengths to which she is going to hide herself and what pains her. Please note her staff with the "blue" "stone" in the top of it. Gandalf of The Hobbit carries a similar stick but it's all wood, there is no stone. The stone might symbolize her heart (as the top of Gandalf's staff symbolizes his heart, because it's where the light and power comes from that is his to command) that Maleficent's heart has turned to stone. On a different angle, or even simultaneously, it might symbolize earth--if she is an "environmentalist"--and her power comes from a kind of pagan cult (like summoning the "tree people" to fight a battle for her). One of the most famous features separating Maleficent from other villains is her high, sharp cheek bones. Why? The most familiar wisdom associated with cheeks is to "Turn the other cheek," so if someone insults you once, permit them to insult you again so you become humble. If Maleficent has cheekbones that are high and sharp, it may symbolize--as in the animated Disney version--that she is quick to take insult at the slightest gesture--and quick to compound some other slight and seek revenge out of pride, rather than becoming humbled. Again, we will delve into this at greater length in about a month when we examine the original fairy tale and the Disney animated version.
I have more than three posts exploring possible scenarios for the film; why? It's a good mental exercise and forces more attention on details I might overlook given more material in which I could lose them. For example, only one thing really sticks out in my mind in the synopsis above: "moors." All we need to consider is the problems with the Keystone pipeline (industry, like the spinning wheels) and the environment (Maleficent's moors). I'm not saying this is how the film will go: there is tons we don't know, but I will keep my eye out, as always.
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