Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Movie Review: Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition

Disney’s Sleeping Beauty is one of the most enduring of the Disney classic animated features.  Not only was its use of multi-pane photography a breakthrough in animation technology, but the artistic style and operatic influences were unlike anything Disney had produced at the time.  And, of course, the story itself resonated with audiences everywhere – fairies and witches, a prince and princess, a climactic battle between good and evil.  Little girls all over the world desperately wished to be given gifts of beauty and song and dreams of a prince that actually came true.  It’s no wonder Disney decided to release a Diamond Edition as a sort of companion set to the forthcoming Maleficent release. (Don’t even get me started on Maleficent.  They ruined one of the best Disney villains in history.)

This isn’t the first Blu Ray release of Sleeping Beauty, however.  Back in 2007, Disney issued the Platinum Edition, the first conversion of the audio and video to high definition and chalk full of special features.  Sleeping Beauty has been one of the most popular Disney princess films to date, and everyone has said practically everything about it; so what was I supposed to spend 800 words on for this new edition?
I’ve seen this movie dozens of times in my life.  Each time, I love the music, the quality of artistry, the Sword of Truth piercing through Maleficent’s dragon chest in a victorious moment for the forces of good.  What I never realized was how perfectly they captured Aurora as a teenager.  I mean, she actually believes that “if you dream a thing more than once, it’s sure to come true.”  Literally believes it.  She sings to woodland animals.  She cries at the drop of a hat.  She gets infatuated with a handsome guy within seconds.  And she follows glowing balls of light JUST BECAUSE.  The only thing that’s missing is the rebellious streak.

And you know who I never really noticed before?  Prince Philip.  Well, I noticed him, but I didn’t notice his character development.  He was just a pretty face that was supposed to rescue the princess.  But look closer at him.  Sure, when we first meet him, he’s a kid not that interested in an infant.  He does that frowny “ew” face.  The next time we meet him, he’s loafing around the forest with his horse following pretty sounds and wooing musical young women.  Then he flies off to daddy and says he’s going to marry a peasant girl and forget about being king.  He’s pretty teenage-like in his own right despite how much older he is than Aurora.  But what happens when he gets captured?  What happens when he finds out Maleficent’s plan?  He puts on his big-boy pants and saves the day, that’s what he does.  Of course, Flora helps with the details, like busting him out of prison, giving him weapons, and saving him from fate-worse-than-death situations, but hey.  He did the legwork in hacking the forest of thorns and in fighting the dragon.

I kinda think Flora is an unsung hero in this movie.  She’s written as bossy and controlling, but when crisis sets in, you don’t see her flying off the handle or cowering in a corner.  She’s got her ducks in a row and she is READY.  She’s probably the strongest feminine figure in the whole movie – Maleficent has power, yes, but Flora has self-possession, intelligence, leadership, and courage.  When I was a kid, I didn’t like her because she was mean to Merriweather, and I related to Merriweather because she was impish, energetic, and frequently acted on impulse.  (She was also right about using wands, ha!  I loved seeing Flora wrong.)  But if Flora hadn’t been there, the three good fairies would never have taken Aurora into hiding, never raised her to be gentle and kind and (let’s face it) quirky; no one would have put two and two together to figure out Aurora was Philip’s “peasant girl,” bought them the time they needed defeat Maleficent, and most definitely not motivated the other two fairies to get their magical butts up to the Forbidden Mountain to rescue anybody.  There would have been no jail break, no Shield of Virtue and no Sword of Truth, no boulders turned bubbles and arrows turned flowers, no boiling oil turned rainbow, and no last-hurrah as Philip delivered the killing blow.  Even Merriweather using her gift to change the curse from death to sleep was Flora’s idea.  So while she’s brusque and rude and annoyingly obsessed with pink, she’s got the guts to do what it takes to make that happily ever after HAPPEN. *insert finger snap

And Maleficent?  She’s been my favorite Disney villain since forever.  None of the others can compare to her style, her commanding presence, and her blatant acknowledgement of her evilness.  I mean, she ruins Flora’s flowers out of spite; she puts curses on babies because she wasn’t invited to the party; she torments a prince with images of being locked in her dungeon for a hundred years; and she calls on the power of hell to transform into a dragon.  (She gives dragons such a bad name.)  I mean, she can indeed be all bad, as Flora puts it, and she LIKES it that way, making her possibly one of the most dangerous villains ever.  You can’t appeal to a better side with Maleficent because there isn’t one!  I had a debate with some friends of mine about whether villains who are evil because they like being evil are more dangerous that villains who are convinced that what they’re doing is actually right (e.g. Frolo from Hunchback of Notre Dame).  I voted that evil for the sake of evil is more dangerous because the misguided ones still have a chance of being redeemed.  (We never finished that debate, btw).

So, Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition.  I love this story just as much now as I did when I first saw it as a kid, and it’s definitely worth having in your collection because it’s visually stunning, musically captivating, and emotionally resonating.  What little girl in us doesn’t want to be able to sing like Aurora?  What little boy doesn’t want to slay an evil dragon?  You want this one.  You want it.  Got get it.

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