Tag Archives: curse

Movie Review: Maleficent (2014) (4 *’s)

Disney’s Maleficent is the latest reimagining of a Disney children’s tale as a rated PG film—more palatable for adults, but not quite as intense as a PG-13 or higher film. It is based on the Disney classic Sleeping Beauty, my favorite as a young child (I mean, it has a dragon! What more do you want?) Maleficent stars Angelina Jolie in the title role, Elle Fanning as the Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), and Sharlto Copley as King Stefan.

 

The story begins with the younger years of Maleficent, a female human-sized fairy living in the fairy moor right next door to the human kingdom. One day she finds a young human boy who is trying to steal a small gem from fairyland. She makes him give it back and the two of them become friends. As time goes by, their relationship deepens. When Maleficent turns sixteen, Stefan gives her what he says is true love’s kiss. Unfortunately, things don’t last and he becomes an infrequent visitor lured away by the honors, riches, and desires that dominate the human world. Maleficent is hurt, of course, but she survives. She goes on with her life. But soon the king of the human kingdom turns his eye toward her moor and conflict ensues. This conflict forms the backdrop of the entire Sleeping Beauty story. But it’s Sleeping Beauty with a twist. Maleficent is set up as a sympathetic character for the movie.

 

Strengths: the acting was good, the plot good, and the special effects were quite remarkable. I couldn’t find any logical holes in a single viewing. The life lessons were decent; the message about love well-taken. Weaknesses: my biggest problem with the film is that since it is based on Sleeping Beauty it would likely draw a very young crowd in spite of the PG rating. It’s not as bad as a PG-13 rating, but even so, redefining Maleficent as a misunderstood heroine will likely be confusing to the very young who are familiar with the original tale. Further, I felt that Disney missed an opportunity to reconcile King Stefan with Maleficent—such would have made a powerful tale of forgiveness that would have been very instructive. As it was, the ending was okay, but perhaps a little dark for the very young.

Anyway, I’ll give Disney’s Maleficent four stars out of five with a warning that some of the plot may be too mature for the very young. Still, it was a good movie.

Vampire, Werewolf, or Zombie? Which Would You Rather Be?

I haven’t done a completely ridiculous post in quite some time (excepting, of course, on my recent blog tour), so I figure I’m overdue. So, here goes.

 

The question of the ages. You are condemned to live the rest of your life as a monster, but you are given a choice: you can be a vampire, a werewolf, or a zombie. What is your decision?

 

For myself, I’m going with the werewolf primarily because that is the one where you retain the most of your humanity. I mean, a zombie, really? All you have to look forward to is shambling around the countryside, rotting from the inside out, or from the outside in, and looking to feast on brains. Your intellectual capacity is reduced to virtually zero, and you’ve come to accept monosyllabic grunts and groans as the pinnacle of communication. No reading philosophy for you! A step up from that is the vampire. Here, well, you’re dead. According to most traditions, you are incinerated by sunlight so it’s the nightlife for you. You sleep in coffins, and drink human blood. Gone are the days of feasting on hot chicken wings and beer; nope, just blood. Day in. Day out. Although you do have some funky powers, and you have retained your remarkable intellect, you also suffer from a variety of weaknesses, like the previously mentioned sunlight. But also, you can’t enter a building unless invited. You can’t cross running water. You are repelled by holy objects. And most importantly of all: you stink. No matter where you go or what you do, whenever you set up house, you are haunted by that ever-present, hideous odor of the undead. The stuff of rotting corpses and graves. A small price to pay for immortality perhaps, but not an easy one.

 

Compare the above, to the werewolf. Once a month (okay, maybe three evenings a month, one on either side of the full moon, if we are generous), you transform into a hideous beast and roam the countryside looking for someone to rip to shreds. You have little memory of these events, let alone control. The rest of the time, you are basically a human, often with extraordinary strength and keen senses. You can go around in sunlight; you don’t rot; and you don’t stink… although you might have a bad case of fleas. Some traditions hold that you are immortal; others, that you will die in your own time.

 

For myself, immortality does have something of an allure; I could learn a lot in limitless time, but eventually, I think, I’d get bored.

 

I think all three of the above constitute curses. Vampires and werewolves are usually associated with losing your soul… not so sure about zombies. If God is understanding and lets you into heaven after your zombie body is destroyed, then perhaps that’s the way to go. But ignoring afterlife concerns, I’m sticking with the werewolf.

The Vampire’s Bite: Curse or Virus?

I have written previously of how the nature of the vampire has changed since the original writing of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”(the original blog entry is here). Where once they could move about during the day, they are now incinerated by sunlight. Where they could once turn into a bat, many modern varieties are limited to a human-like form. Etc… One thing I failed to touch on, however, was the manner by which the vampire transforms its unhappy victim into another vampire. By all accounts, it does so by biting his or her victim, and draining the blood to a certain critical point. Through the years, though, one’s understanding of the bite and how it ultimately works has changed.

 

At the time when “Dracula” was written, the bite was understood to be a curse. The vampire, as agent of the Christian Devil, bit the victim, and he or she was transformed into a creature of the night by the mysterious powers of darkness. The method of transformation was safely ensconced in the supernatural. It was beyond human understanding, and as such, offered no hope of redemption. Most modern people, as a result of the continuing advance of science, do not believe in curses. They require a more “scientific” explanation for the vampire. They want to see some mechanical explanation that is somewhat more plausible than some unfathomable “curse.” And so the vampire virus was born. I don’t know who first used the virus-explanation, but it seems quite prevalent nowadays. I remember seeing it once in a comic book years ago, and I thought it clever, then. They used it in the series of “Underworld” movies starring Kate Beckinsale, and earlier in the “Blade” movies starring Wesley Snipes. I’m sure I’ve seen it elsewhere, but precisely where, eludes me for the moment. Anyway, I’m starting to get annoyed with the vampire virus explanation. I mean, really, do we need a “quasi-scientific” explanation for a vampire?

 

Isn’t it more chilling and more sinister to have the method of transformation beyond mere mortal explanation? Although most of the tales agree that the virus is incurable, that aspect of the disease is a temporary state. There is no reason why a virus, in principle, could not be cured at some later point in time by scientific advance. Some movies have even incorporated a “cure” for vampirism in the plot line. And to me this just detracts from the supernatural horror. Give me the curse without a cure. The sentence of living damnation that cannot be suspended. I mean, we are dealing with supernatural folklore here. Why limit ourselves with “science.” The vampire virus was kind of cool and clever for a time, but nowadays, I’m starting to look at it as more of a cliché. I like the mysterious and the unfathomable; give me the curse with no cure. It makes for a much more chilling tale.

 

And, of course, I must shamelessly mention my fantasy vampire novel, Drasmyr—see the side bar under Publications if you are interested.