Halo 4: Beautiful and Empty With Choices I Hated

Halo 4 on Steam

“Halo 4” is easily the weakest of all the games in the “Master Chief Collection.” It doesn’t help that the story of Master Chief and Cortana is done after 3 and Microsoft wasn’t able to pull of a “Toy Story 4” but I also didn’t hate it overall, though there were quite a few story choices I did hate. This is a game that I won’t recommend unless you are completionist or already bought the Master Chief Collection. I enjoyed it but this is a story only for those who want a little more lore and gameplay, both of which are weaker than the past games.

The story follows Master Chief and Cortana when Master Chief is awakened 4 years later above the mysterious world of Requiem as a Covenant Remnant attempts to destroy him.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – This soundtrack is much more mysterious and electronic that really is the strongest in the final mission. Neil Davidge and Kazuma Jinnouchi bring this world to life and elevate a pretty weak script.

The Graphics – This is easily the best looking of the “Halo Franchise” up to this point and the cinematography is also movie level quality. This game is beautiful, it is just a shame the story couldn’t be more.

Master Chief – Master Chief is compelling in that he is doing all he can to save humanity and Cortana but it doesn’t get much deeper than that. He is the only human with an ounce of complexity and he barely carries this story.

The Covenant Remnant – The Covenant Remnant are so much fun to fight (much fun than the A.I. Promethean enemies) but we never see their leadership interact with the Didact. They feel like they are just there because they are familiar when so much more could have been done with their story this game.

Okay:

The Didact and Librarian – The Promethean Leadership is okay. The Didact is the main villain who want to kill humanity for being the Reclaimers. We get hints of that ancient history and hatred but it isn’t enough to carry the game. This needed multiple games to really be made the most of or at least some setup in expansions prior. I didn’t hate the Prometheans but them as a threat and ally only really works in how mysterious they are, not in the history we see.

The Combat – The combat is weaker than in prior games, which is a shame since you get a jet-pack and the cool Combat-Walker called the Mantis. Most vehicles are weaker and even the weapons don’t feel as effective. Halo 3 this wasn’t a problem so I wasn’t sure what happened inbetween.

The Cons:

The Knights and Crawlers / A.I. Enemies – The A.I. enemies are really annoying. They swarm you and have predictable ways of behaving. The Knights take a lot of hits and the Crawlers can swarm you. The Drones also can reconstitute dead Knights so you need to watch for that. Any section with multiples of these takes longer than expected and made the game tedious. Just give me some Elites, Hunters and Brutes, they are deadly but at least fun to fight.

The Human Characters – The human characters are usually always clashing with Master Chief or are just bland followers. I missed Johnson and the humans we met before as the game seeking to make Master Chief more of a rebel just came off making humanity unsympathetic. We got scientists obsessed with study over survival and Commanders who have the same mentality. I don’t think 4 years fighting Covenant Remnants would have realistically done this to the UNSC.

Cortana’s Arc – Cortana is dying and fails as she is dying over the course of the mission. In the end she saves Master Chief and humanity and that is it. The reason this is a con is it isn’t gradual and for her being in Master Chief’s head you never get the full effect of what is going on with her. This was a missed opportunity as her and Chief were solid in the main trilogy.

Master Chief as Chosen One – The Librarian says that Master Chief was made to defeat the Didact and save humanity and force evolves him. He becomes a literal chosen one. I hated this as before he was an important part but not the only thing saving humanity. I also hate Chosen One narratives generally and this one doesn’t do it well. It feels contrived and forced.

This was a fun, beautiful and a very flawed game. This is easily the weakest part of the “Master Chief Collection” and I’d only recommend it to completionists or folks who really want to know what happens next. I liked the game enough to finish it but the characters and world deserved better than an enjoyable game if the story were to continue.

Final Score: 7 / 10 I enjoyed it though part of me wonders if this score is still being generous. I was inspired enough to finish the game, so I guess it stands.

Halo 2: Anniversary – Great Lore Caught in the Center of a Trilogy

Halo 2: Anniversary PC | Halo: The Master Chief Collection - YouTube

  “Halo 2” is another of the “Halo Series” I played back in High School but didn’t have the chance to beat until I bought the “Master Chief Collection” when it came out for PC. This game improves on the gameplay from the first game and adds a ton of lore (a lot of which is to explain the events of the first game) and overall it is good. The things that bring it down are some of the cliche story elements, some of the added story from “Halo 5” and the fact that it is clearly the middle of a Trilogy storywise so the ending isn’t as complete as it could be. Either way, if you enjoyed the first game and are invested in the lore like me this one is well worth your time.

The game was Published by Microsoft Studios and developed by Bungie, Blur Studio and Certain Affinity.

The story follows Master Chief who has returned to Earth when the Prophet of Regret of the Covenant attacks Earth. At the same time Thel ‘Vadam the Elite Commander who failed to stop Master Chief from destroying the Halo is made into the Arbiter as he begins to learn more about the internal politics of the Covenant and the truth behind the faith they follow.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Cinematics – Blur Studio has created some of the best looking cinematics I have seen in any game. The Anniversary edition gives us movie level quality between missions and crafts some fantastic drama that fully captures the unique design of the Covenant species, the epicness of the ships and the personalities within the individual characters on screen.

The Soundtrack – The Soundtrack once again captures the epic nature of the events you are taking place in. This time it does some in a hard rock fashion, which I thought would be distracting but still work really well and gave an apocalyptic feel to some of the scenes. The sounds from Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori from the original game with Kazuma Jinnouchi using it in the new edition is simply handled beautifully.

The Gameplay – The gameplay does nothing but improve upon the first game. Vehicles are easier and actually fun to control. You can dual wield guns and you have the energy sword that is absolutely deadly, fantastic and fun.

The Covenant – The Covenant story is the most compelling part of “Halo 2.” Within the game we get to see the power struggle between the Prophets (Regret attacks Earth early in order to bring about the Great Journey and become a God) ends in failure and Truth lets Mercy be devoured by the Flood on their Capital of High Charity when the Flood invade. He also starts the Civil War by blaming the Elite’s for Regret’s death and being a major reason for the Brutes ascending to Honor Guards. This Civil War is what dominates the narrative and the historical records we get from the Terminals are fascinating as the Prophets go into how they came to dominate different species and brought them into the Covenant.

Tartarus and the Brutes -Tartarus and the Brutes are the new antagonist in the game as we see them become the new Honor Guard in the Covenant. They are large, gorilla-like aliens that take a lot of hits and can go into Berserk mode when enraged. Their leader Tartarus is clever too as he uses the Arbiter to get Guilty Spark to the Prophets and nearly succeeds in achieving Truth’s goals. They are a fantastic threat and were really fun to fight. After “Halo Wars 2” and the Banished faction it was really cool to see their origin in the Covenant and the Brute’s rise to power in this game.

The Prophets – The Prophets are one of the fascinating antagonists of the game. Regret acts quickly and ends up defeated by Master Chief and consumed by Gravemind and the Flood. Mercy is attempting to keep Harmony among the different species that make up the Covenant and Truth is ego and power and only sees others as means to an end. In the end he outmaneuvers the others, causes a Covenant Civil War and is on his way to Earth to activate the Ark and bring about “The Great Journey” which he believes will bring about his ascension to Godhood. This game made me appreciate the Prophets as antagonists.

File:H2A - Gravemind.png

Gravemind and the Flood – Gravemind is this lovecraftian horror made up of all the minds it has consumed. It is ancient and extremely intelligent as it uses Master Chief and the Arbiter as weapons against High Charity to weaken it’s defenses enough for it to invade. At the end of the game he has control over Cortana as well giving him control of the Forerunner technology, the Covenant (The Prophet Regret and probably Mercy at this point) and Cortana for humanity. It is extremely creepy and scary and the design for this being is nightmare fuel.

Attack on High Charity – One of the funnest parts of the game is the Attack on High Charity. Gravemind warps the two of them to the Capitol City of the Covenant as they seek to stop Tartarus from activating the Halo Ring and the Prophet of Truth from reaching the Ark. Tartarus is stopped but the Prophet of Truth escapes and in the chaos and destabilization of the Capitol City the Flood take hold and you witness their consuming of the installation over the course of both missions. It is horrifying as you witness a Civil War in real time when Truth blames the Elites for Regret’s death and call for their annihilation and of course the horror as the Flood arrive and consume. This whole segment is really fun to play and keeps the stakes high in a way the original game kept consistent throughout.

Betrayals – This is a game full of betrayals. Regret betrays Truth and Mercy when he attacks earth Early who in turn betray him. Tartarus and the Prophets betray the Arbiter have her gets them Guilty Spark and the Prophets betrays the Elites. On top of this Gravemind uses and betrays the Arbiter and Master Chief, though I doubt they ever trusted the creature at any point.

Thel ‘Vadam the Arbiter – Keith David is absolutely amazing voice the Arbiter Thel ‘Vadam. Vadam was the Elite who failed to stop Master Chief from destroying the Halo in the first game and is punished for it, being made the Arbiter which the Covenant have turned into their enforcer to send on impossible missions. His arc is realizing that all he learned about was a lie and in turn becomes a leader among his people when the Covenant turns on them. He is also the first to reach out to humanity after he defeats Tartarus and prevents the newly discovered Halo from being activated. This a character with self-hatred who finds his dignity once more and never stops fighting or caring about his people.

File:H2A-Arbiter&Co.jpg

Okay:

Master Chief and Cortana – Master Chief and Cortana are at the point where they can nearly predict what the other will do. They are the perfect fighting team so this game works hard to seperate them as in the end the only way to save the world is for Master Chief to get onto the Prophet of Truth’s ship while Cortana stays behind on the Covenant homeworld of High Charity as it is consumed by the Flood and she is captured by Gravemind.

Sargent Avery Johnson and Commander Miranda Keyes – Sargent Johnson and Commander Keyes are alright. Sargent Johnson has the “devil may care’ attitude and somehow survived the first game (2 only addresses as classified, which is lazy). Commander Keyes’s father Captain Keyes is the Captain consumed by the Flood in the first game and here she carries on his legacy in the fight against the Flood and Covenant. Like Cortana and Master Chief they never get out of the tropes but they were compelling enough to keep me involved.

The Cons:

Damsels to be Saved – Commander Avery is captured by the Brute leader Tartarus and it is up to Master Chief and Sargent Johnson to save her. Cortana is captured by Gravemind at the end of the game too. This is a shame as before this both characters have a lot of agency and drive the action. It is only turned around at the end the Bowser equivalents of the game capture them.

A Story Caught in the Middle of a Series – One of the biggest things that goes against the narrative and wonderful story we are given is the fact that it ends on a Cliffhanger so things can be concluded in “Halo 3.” Gravemind has captured Cortana and High Charity, The Prophet of Truth is going to the Ark on Earth (with Master Chief on board) and plans to activate the Halos to end the Universe and the Arbiter teams up with Johnson and Keyes. These are huge hanging threads which leaves the game feeling incomplete, unlike the first “Halo.”

The Added Content from “Halo 5” – There is an added scene at the beginning of the Arbiter talking to new Spartan who is hunting for Master Chief and it sets up the game as him recounting the story. I wasn’t a big fan of this as it took away of the stakes of the narrative of any major character being at risk. At this point the Arbiter and Master Chief are both confirmed alive at the beginning of the game. This hurt the stakes immediately.

Master Chief Rides a Bomb – Master Chief becomes God Level at this point and I was no longer afraid of him ever being truly at risk. He rode a disarmed bomb and destoryed a Covenant carrier and landed safely on an UNSC. The first “Halo” had nothing like this so within the game it still felt like Master Chief could get hurt or experience pain. After this act of insanity that he walks away from untouched he ceased having any kind of vulnerability.

The greatest parts of this game are the stories that come out of the Covenant. The Civil War that arises where we have Arbiter and the Elites with Hunters and Grunts on their side facing against the Prophets, Brutes, Jackals and Drones. The politics and how compalling Thel ‘Vadam’s arc is is what made the story work. The human story when Master Chief isn’t doing the impossible is fine but it never elevates itself. The characters are never as complex as the heroes and villains that make up the races of the Covenant and that is why I can’t rate the game higher. As an experience it is very well done and I still highly recommend it, especially the “Anniversary Edition.” This is a beautiful, fun and compelling game and I look forward to when “Halo 3” is released on PC within the “Mater Chief Collection.”

Final Score: 8.6 / 10 The human story never reaches the height of the Covenant story and the fact that it ends on a cliffhanger setting up “Halo 3” and the Trilogy of the war against the Covenant brings it down from feeling complete and from being rated higher.

The 12th Doctor – Series 10, Episode 12 – “The Doctor Falls” – When Change Leads to Pain

Moffat and Finale’s are a mixed bag. Moffat is a writer who is afraid to kill off characters and take risks with story. So much of what he’s done with the “Doctor Who” lore is to reset the status quo. I’m not sure how far into the series you are so I won’t go into detail, but a lot of powerful decisions that Davies made in storytelling Moffat cancels out, as well as his inability to let go of characters and an insistence they must keep coming back (he’s been better about this with Capaldi’s stories in regards to this lately though). “The Doctor Falls” thankfully does not have this problem. Before I get into spoilers in the review, this is a story with consequences and since Moffat knows he’s leaving he manages to give some wonderful sendoffs to quite a few amazing characters.

“The Doctor Falls” was directed by Rachel Talaley and written by Steven Moffat.

The story picks up where we left off, with Bill turned into a Cybermen and the Masters torturing the Doctor. The tables are turned though when the Cybermen attack as the Doctor revealed he expanded the definition of humanity to mean Time Lords as well forcing all of them to team up as they make their final stand on a village higher up in the ship.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Base Under Siege – The base under siege is a major “Doctor Who” story trope that is handed really well here, as we have a small group of people who the Masters, Nardole, CyberBill and the Doctor must work with as they work out a plan to save themselves or save the villagers. It’s powerful as most of the villagers are children and the Cybermen have been attacking them for years. It is a losing battle without sacrifice leading characters to make choices that will define them. In the end Nardole leads the survivors further up the ship and is left as their guardian as he, once a con man has now become a good man from the Doctor.

The Masters – Simm’s Master has no empathy and is still the same insane man from the Tennant era while Missy feels guilt and cares for the Doctor. This leads to her killing her past self to regenerate into her current self but not before she is shot by Simm’s Master as the Master’s self-destructive nature leads to the Time Lord’s destruction. It is a tragic and powerful scene and in it the Master is redeemed as Missy’s final act was to do away with her bad past and embrace the goals of the Doctor, and in doing so it ends her life. It is a great ending for the Master as a character and Michelle Gomez, who has owned this role gives so much life and emotion to those final scenes with Simm’s Master and the Doctor.

Bill’s Good-bye – Bill is in the final fight and helps the Doctor get back to the TARDIS with the help of the Pilot who returns. It is at that point she becomes the water entity too and dies…as the Doctor established the Pilot is it’s unknown entity and now Bill is a part of it. It is sad and tragic and beautiful as some part of Bill will carry on traveling even though she is dead in both body (turned into a cyberman) and now self since she joined the entity.

The Doctor and Change – Through this episode we see the Doctor ready to die and in a way wanting to I think. He lost his best friend the Master (both when he thinks she’s leaving with her past self and for real when see their death), he can guess that Bill is dead given she isn’t on the TARDIS and stayed to fight with him and all his past pain, from losing River and losing himself as he changes each time. This leads to his last acts before the TARDIS takes him to his first incarnation…him resisting regeneration. He just wants to die and for the pain to end. He’s tired of loss and if he’s going to go he wants to go as himself. I can see why and it is done so much better than when Tennant’s Doctor implied the same with the long good-bye. Can’t wait to see the Christmas Special explore this more.

The Cons: Genesis of the Cybermen? – So where the Cybermen created here? Simm’s Master calls the Cybermen he made the Genesis of the Cybermen but we never see them leave the ship and the Mondas look and connection is never made fully clear. I liked them as a threat but why all this setup if it doesn’t lead anywhere?

This was an episode I highly recommend. It is a favorite and easily some of the best of Moffat’s writing in this series. I’m going to miss Capaldi so much but I’m glad Nardole, Bill and the Master got some amazing good-byes and I hope Capaldi’s Doctor get’s the same. This was a season where Moffat finally learned that it is okay to let go. Clara doesn’t have to keep on dying and being brought back and becoming an immortal fixture who ceases to be a character…it is okay so good-bye and storywise it lends power to sacrifice and loss. This was a two-parter that did that so well and showed just how great of a writer Moffat can be.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10

For the Two Parts: 9.5 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 1, Episode 7 – “The Demon Hand” – Revelations

Thedemonhand2

     This is one of the more messed up episodes that has Detective Ellison in the “Sarah Chronicles” version of the “X-Files.” From dealing with crazy people and seeing “the dead” he is faced with rethinking and once more considering all his assumptions. We also get some great exploration of Cameron as a character and Derek too (though I still dislike the guy). This was an episode that showed the power of choices and captured one of the first real themes of the show.

     “The Demon Hand,” was directed by Charles Breeson and written by Toni Graphia.

     The story involves Dr. Ellison and his investigation with the Terminator hand and it leading him to Dr. Silberman (the Psychiatrist keeping Sarah Connor looked up in “T2”) and extreme events that happen from there. Cameron takes up ballet and Derek continues to be hostile to the Connors.

The Pros:  Dr. Silberman – This guy went insane after seeing Arnold in action and realized just e Show wrong he was about “Judgment Day.” To this end we see him test to see if Ellison is a Teminator and later trying to kill him to protect Sarah. He is messed up and ends up at the same facility he had kept Sarah in.

Sarah Connor – In this we see that Sarah is not Derek Reese. She lives for more than the war and rescues Ellison from the fire Silberman starts, which begins proving his assumptions about her wrong (including the one she was dead). This was a huge moment for her as is her defense of Cameron who is much more stable than the loose cannon Derek who lives with only hate.

Agent Ellison – This is Ellison’s arc and shows how he is coming around to seeing Sarah’s point of view. We also see that he is a man of faith and that is what helps him deal with nearly dying to Silberman. I really like the character now and hope he survives the series. He isn’t static and changes by what he learns and experiences.

Cameron – Cameron like Ellison changes from circumstances. She defends a woman from a gangster, learns ballet and how to improvise and we see her acting out of what could be deemed empathy. It’s a great arc and no wonder it causes Derek to cry.

When Machines become Human – Cameron changes, just like Ellison. From her protecting others, doing more than just orders and her way of relating to others. She is an A.I. and not simply a Terminator bent on the destruction of her enemy.

Okay: Derek Reese – The guy is filled with hate with a few moments of awe towards Cameron’s humanity but he still feels so raw. I like Ellison, I don’t like Derek….he would almost work better as an antagonist on the other side, not an ally.

Derek was the weakest part of this episode, but I now consider it a favorite. The work done with Sarah, Cameron and Ellison carries this as we see characters truly change, be faced with difficult trials and come out of them better people than they were before. This is the show at it’s best.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing – Season 1, Episode 30 – “The Reunion with Relena” – The Importance of the Pilots

Gw-ep30-reunion-with-relena

 

With Dorothy in the shadows and the nature of war, I don’t see things going well for Relena’s Sanc Kingdom. This episode is good at showing the new purpose of the pilots though and we see both Quatre’s and Heero’s process of getting there.

The episode was directed by Kunihiro Mori and Nobuyoshi Nishimura and written by Katsuhiko Chiba.

The episode picks up where we were before with Dorothy protesting the peaceful way as seeing it as irrational and that humans will always find reasons to fight. Her and Relena debate and we see Relena has become attached to her. We also see that Heero has joined the Treize Faction as a leader to fight against the Romafeller Foundation while Quatre is going among the people to try and find purpose and to get help for the civilians.

The Pros: Relena – Relena is shown to be the leader now and her one disadvantage is that she still is naive in many ways. Would she be willing to kill Dorothy to protect her Kingdom? This is a question that she is not ready to answer.

Dorothy – Dorothy is researching the Pilots and wants to use their actions as an excuse for the Romafeller Foundation to invade and occupy the Sanc Kingdom. She is cruel and loves it but we see she at least has a basis for her philosophy. She is the opposite of Relena and it makes her interesting.

Quatre – Quatre walks among the people and learns of Sanc creating a bulwark against the Romafellers through peaceful resistance. This leads to him to believe that they are needed there, as he sees how the people are suffering and need protection. It is his drive that saves Heero again, much like last time.

Heero – Heero is driven by revenge and he has an enemy worth fighting again. The Romafellers don’t care about people at this point and have lost their original mission of protecting nature. Are there any good Romafellers? Right now, no. They are Heero brought to the extreme of someone always seeking fights and dominance.

Okay: Pacing – Pacing could have been better. The narratives that Relena and Dorothy are going through don’t feel as fleshed out, same with Quatre and Heero, though Quatre does feel like a whole character, like Relena.

This is a good episode and well worth seeing. We get a glimpse into just how compassionate Relena and Quatre are and that their motives are not based in ego but in the people…while Dorothy and Heero are still driven by conflict and to a big degree love of battle, much like Amuro from “Mobile Suit Gundam.” Now Heero at least has  a purpose to fight, the just Sanc Kingdom deserves protection as it gives freedom and is the answer to Romafeller control and can’t be blamed for terrorism because they are non-violent.

Final Score: 9 / 10. Solidly great.

Mobile Suit Gundam – Season 1, Episode 17 – “Zeon’s Secret Mine” – Introducing Kycilia

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This is the episode that introduces to Kycilia Zabi, the elders sister of the Zabi family and Rear Admiral in the Zeon military. It is here we see some of her operations she is working on and White Base 7’s reaction to Amuro’s leaving.

The episode was written by Kenichi Matsuzaki and directed by Shinya Sadamitsu.

The story involves what happened post Amuro’s desertion and his stumbling upon a secret Zeon Base that Kycilia is using to boost the Zeon war effort so that when they conquer their rule will be absolute. Her underling M’Quve is shown in action as well. On the Trojan Horse Fraw is sent out to convince Amuro to come back but goes for help when he shows her the secret base. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: Kycilia Zabi – She is a cruel and practical leader. We see her destroy the base when they are losing the battle against Amuro and his Gundam and she calls things into action too realizing they need more prototypes to offset Amuro’s Gundam considering how powerful it is. She sees the big picture and is not one for sympathy. She tries out their new ship the Adzam, which is in the picture above, and it manages to nearly defeat Amuro showing why she plans to use more prototypes to combat him and the Trojan Horse later.

M’Quve – We actually see that he cares about his men as he protests the destruction of the base, even though he does follow through in the end. He is loyal to the Zabi family even if he cares about his men.

White Base 7 – We see them questioning Amuro’s actions and though they don’t want to kill him they know he needs to be punished for taking the Gundam and deserting. They send Fraw to try and convince him and follow up on the base finding that it wasn’t the main secret base much to their and Amuro’s chagrin.

Fraw Bow – She tries convincing Amuro to come back and we see her slowly losing faith in him, especially when she find the base completely destroyed. She is now torn between her loyalty to White Base 7 and love for Amuro as she leaves to follow him at the end of the episode.

Amuro – We see his denying of responsibility, his joy that turns sour when he sees the men killed in the explosion, and when the Zeon soldier tells him not to be kind to enemy soldiers as it could cost him his life. This is a good episode for exploring who he is and is becoming. Hopefully he can be responsible and turn himself in at some point.

This was a great episode and solid the whole way through. All the characters get explored and we get to see another Zabi in action. We also get more of Amuro’s humanity and how he is developing as a character and see a cool new Zeon ship. I highly recommend this episode.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Maleficent (2014): A Tale of War, Revenge and Recovery from Trauma

Maleficent_Movie_Wallpaper

“Maleficent,” is the retold story (done “Wicked” Style) for the character of Maleficent from Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty.” The story is a revenge tale as Maleficent is betrayed and is out for vengeance on the individual who betrayed her and the Kingdom that has been seeking to conquer her lands of the Moors. She curses Stefan’s daughter (the man who betrayed her) and from there the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment:

The Pros: Angelina Jolie – She is fantastic! She experiences so many different emotions and does so much action in this role and owns it all. She is what elevated this movie beyond the character and story.

The Premise – Is that there are two realms…the faery realm of the Moors and the human Kingdom. They are at war since the humans are trying to take the faeries resources and treasure. Maleficent is the guardian faery and has great eagle wings and horns upon her head. The Premise is great and explains the magic that Maleficent has in “Sleeping Beauty.”

Maleficent – Is great, there are some things in regards to her character I wish they would have done…but I’ll get into those in the cons. For pros though, her relationship to Stefan and her experience of the rape (she gets her wings cut off, it is just that…her power is taken from her by a man she loved)…is powerful. She is a great believable antagonist and you can see her and her people as justified against the humans.

Stefan – Is a great baddy. You see how greed and power overtook whatever feelings he had and how class corrupted him. He is willing to betray and rape the woman he claimed to love to become king. There are few Disney villains as despicable as this guy…and Sharlto Copley does it well. He’s is great at playing complicated bad men.

The Crow – Is fantastic. He gets turned into a man at one point and is Maleficent’s outward morality to some degree. He was the first to care for her after her wings were cut off and he is there to the end.

The Special Effects – Are fantastic. Sometimes it feels a bit too green screen but it is done in such a way that it is supposed to look that way. It exaggerates the colors like a fairy tale.

The Payoff – She heals from her trauma and becomes the mother figure Aurora never had. I actually liked this…I just wish getting here had come at a higher cost for the humans.

Okay/Good: The ending – It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than “Edge of Tomorrow’s” ending, though it wasn’t as good as “Winter Soldier” or “Days of Future Past,” in regards to the end either.

Okay: The Three Good Faeries – They are harmless and comedic relief as usual…none really stand out except for the Pink Fairy played by Imelda Staunton (Doloris Umbridge).

The Faeries – They may look diverse, but they are either stupid good (the three good faeries and others) or Maleficent. I wish they had attacked humans and been more chaotic, faeries usually represent nature and here they represented the ideal of perfect nature rather than how nature actually is (storms, animals, etc.). They weren’t bad, but they were not deep in any way…outside of Maleficent.

Aurora – She’s alright, but the actress who plays her isn’t all that memorable. She could have been replaced by anyone else and it would have had the same emotional effect. She is a plot device with some amount of agency. She seeks out Maleficent and the Moors and she does action…the thing is this is Maleficent’s story though and she functions more at helping Maleficent release her hate and write the wrongs of the curse cast against her. She is there to remind Maleficent of who she was before her wings were taken.

Cons: The Cost – In “Wicked” the book (and implied in the musical), there are consequences to Elphaba’s rebellion. She takes action against the wizard and loses her love…she later loses her kingdom when Dorothy is set on her too. There is none of that in this, it is willing to explore the emotional cost of rape but not the political fallout of having someone as powerful as Maleficent taking action against those who harmed her. She curses Aurora…and that is it. Everything else she does is in self defense. I didn’t find this believable given what happened to her was worse than what happened to Elphaba and Elphaba killed to free the sentient animals and lost her love in the process. Maleficent gets everything back in the end and never goes all bad…her as a villain against the realm was never believable beyond the curse (in which she adds the “True Love’s Kiss” out). This I think hurt to the tone…if you are going to go dark and the revenge along the lines of “Kill Bill,” go “Kill Bill,” “Pirates of the Caribbean series” got violent for much less. Maleficent had so much reason to become the monster, but she never did. It was for this reason I miss the one of old. She did evil for no reason, but at least she actually did evil. Maleficent helps her enemy more than anything else (raising his daughter, uniting his kingdom as he has them attack her after the curse). I wanted her to give payback, but it never comes…She is always the defender except for that single moment of the curse.

There was so much here for a great movie. They actually were willing to use a metaphor for rape and introduce it to kids…the conversations out of that need to happen to help stop it in the future. Storywise it misses so much though. Maleficent should have been more destructive against Stefan, he deserved that. Frollo and Scar faced major consequences beyond their own self destructive paranoia…Stefan deserved the same and worse. I would still recommend this movie and it was really good, worth it largely for the premise Jolie and Sharlto. It is hard to do retellings like this, there is a reason “Wicked” is the only memorable story of that type, and this is no “Wicked,” but is great for what it manages to achieve.

My score is 8.2 / 10.