Genre: Fantasy/Family
Premise: (from IMDB) A vindictive fairy is driven to curse an infant princess only to realize the child may be the only one who can restore peace.
About: Malificent is one of the more daring movies Disney has ever released. As the title implies, the film is centered around one of the most famous villains of all time, Sleeping Beauty’s “Malificent.” For Disney to center a film around a villain is one thing, but to center it around a character this evil is a surprising move. Releasing the film in the middle of the year’s biggest movie season is yet another gamble. You’re competing against X-Men, Spider men, and really muscular men, all with bigger fan bases. I have to admit I’m fascinated by this choice, and am eager to see if anyone shows up. Writer Linda Woolverton has been writing for Disney forever. She wrote 2010’s Alice in Wonderland as well as the classics, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. In other words, if you’re going to do something daring with a Disney property, this is the woman you want writing it.
Writer: There’s no title page here, but this draft looks to have been written by Linda Woolverton. Disney favorite John Lee Hancock helped with rewrites on later drafts.
Details: 110 pages (unknown draft)

maleficent poster-1

One of the age-old questions in screenwriting has been, “How do you make an audience root for an unlikable hero?” It’s easy to make someone root for an underdog like Forrest Gump or Wall-E. It’s not as easy to make them root for Captain Jack Sparrow or Cool Hand Luke. This question resurfaced when I heard they were having a hard time coming up with a Boba Fett spin-off film for the Star Wars franchise. Boba Fett is a bad guy. How do you make him the hero?

This argument typically parlays itself into the emergence of an antihero. In those cases our protagonist is just as bad as he is good, which makes us a little more uncomfortable about rooting for him. If you do this right, you can create a classic character. Everyone loves themselves a Jack Sparrow. But the ingredients are trickier to mix with anti-heroes. An extra dash here or a tiny spill there can be the difference between a perfect protagonist and a despicable one. Let’s find out which side of the forest Maleficent ended up on.

Now, I haven’t seen Sleeping Beauty in maybe 20 years. So I had to do some Wikipedia searching to catch up. But I realized this is basically Maleficent’s side of the Sleeping Beauty story. Maleficent starts out as a young, winged fairy who’s bigger than all the other fairies for some reason. She’s infatuated with a boy named Stefan, and it looks like they’re going to fall in love and get married.

That’s until he betrays her and joins the Human Land. After becoming chummy with the humans, Stefan tries to go back and kill Maleficent (man, that romance ended quickly), but instead is only able to clip off her wings. My man, Stefan. That was a baaaaad move. A wingless Maleficent is an angry Maleficent.

Many years later, Stefan becomes king (after standing by while the real king chokes to death – classy move) and has a child. This child’s name is Aurora (Aurora is the name of Sleeping Beauty. Did you know that? I didn’t. I thought her actual name was “Sleeping Beauty”). After a confusing array of events, a fairy casts a spell on Aurora that says when she turns 16, she’ll fall into a deep sleep and won’t wake up until her true love kisses her.

Afraid of Maleficent, Stefan hides Aurora in the forest with the fairies until she’s 16. But that incredibly genius idea turns out to backfire, since Maleficent lives in a hut only a short walk away. The two eventually meet up (ON PAGE 75 – THREE-QUARTERS OF THE WAY INTO THE STORY), and Maleficent actually ends up liking Aurora.

The two become friends, however, when Aurora turns 16, she falls into that deep sleep. Maleficent realizes she’s screwed, since there’s no one in the land whose kiss can wake her up. Which means she’ll have to find another solution. Whatever will that solution be….?

maleficentTRAILER

Before we even get to the antihero stuff, I have to say how freaking messy the structure of this script was. It kept jumping forward in time over and over again. No story was able to start as just when we’d get close to something happening, we’d jump again. We jump from Maleficent’s teenage years, to her young adult years. And then Stefan has Aurora, and SHE has to grow up, so we have to bumble through another 16 years. Which is why it took until page 75(!) before our two key characters even met!

I think that’s insane. Whenever you write a script, one of the key decisions you have to make is where to start your story. The idea is to start as CLOSE TO THE ‘KEY STORY’ as possible. The further back you start from that moment, the more mud you have to drag the reader through to get to the good stuff.

Take Die Hard for example. We could’ve started that movie back in New York. We could’ve watched John and his wife get married, have kids, fight, her get the job in LA, leave, see him alone for awhile, AND THEN show him come to Los Angeles. But how boring would it have been to slog through all of that? Instead, we started with John showing up in LA so we could get to the good stuff as soon as possible.

To me, the story here is Maleficent and Aurora. So why are we only getting to that on page 75? I understand that the movie is called “Maleficent” and they probably want to explore how she became this evil person, but to have to sit through 5 time bumps just to get to the good stuff? That feels sloppy to me. And the truth is, they didn’t even do a good job explaining how she became evil. Stefan betrayed her, but she was already a bitch before that.

Look at another fairy tale, Shrek. The timeline for that was three days! You can have time jumps in a script, of course, but you should try to contain them inside the first 15 pages if possible. Whether it be with Up or Frozen, we pass all the time we need to pass immediately, and then we can get to the story.

Now, on to the question of the day. How was Maleficent as an antihero? This is how I saw it: I never learned why Maleficent was a bitch. She hated humans from the beginning of the script, so I didn’t gain any understanding of why she was who she was. It’s not that I NEED to know that with every character. But this script is practically screaming the fact that it’s going to tell us this girl’s origins. So why aren’t we learning her origins?

Eventually Stefan steals her wings and becomes the king, setting him up as our “true” villain in the story. But I didn’t think he was any worse than Maleficent. A trick to making an audience like an antihero is to write a villain that’s way worse than him/her. We’ll want the villain to go down so much that we won’t mind rooting for a “bad” hero. But again, these two seemed about the same to me (with a VERY SLIGHT advantage going to Maleficent), so I didn’t have a rooting interest.

It seems to me that this story is banking on the fact that you know the Sleeping Beauty story like the back of your hand, and therefore will wait patiently until the Maleficent/Aurora storyline arrives. But since this will be for children, will these children have seen Sleeping Beauty? Likewise, will the parents remember it well enough (again, I forgot that Aurora was the name of Sleeping Beauty)? I don’t know. We’ll have to see.

One thing I’ll give credit to Disney for is taking a chance. This is unlike anything they’ve ever done before. And with all the money they’re making lately (no one’s making more bank than Disney these days), they should be taking chances. Unfortunately, I don’t think this chance paid off, UNLESS John Lee Hancock did an Almost Page 1 rewrite on it. We’ll have to see. But I’ll ask you guys in the meantime, especially parents with children. Are you interested in seeing this film?

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Dichotomy with anti-heroes – The trick with anti-heroes is to give them ONE GOOD THING they’ve got going for them (so there’s SOMETHING to root for), and then one element of darkness. That dichotomy of light and dark is what makes these characters so fascinating. A lot of the time, the “good trait” is humor (Jack Sparrow, Tony Stark, Cool Hand Luke, Randle McMurphy from Cuckoo’s Nest). And the “darkness” is self-destructive behavior (Henry Hill, Jordan Belforte). In extreme cases, the darkness is sociopathic or even psychotic behavior (Patrick Bateman from American Psycho). If you don’t have that perfect light/dark balance with your antihero, chances are, we’re not going to care about them. I’m not saying I didn’t care for Maleficent, but she definitely wasn’t interesting enough to keep me engaged the entire read.

  • AlanWilder

    I might go see this since one of my personal writing heroes Paul Dini apparently was involved with the script at some point in the process, but Carson’s review doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence…

  • fragglewriter

    I would have to say that the trailer does nothing to intrigue the audience.

    I might be in the minority, but I watch movies for the anti-hero as the hero’s journey is too boring and often self-loathing, so to watch a movie where the protag is anti-hero and to make the audience fall in love with him, gets me excited.

    But to delay the driving force until page 75 for a script that’s 110 pages is quite ballsy. If they added an additional 25 pages, then maybe. I think the time forwards aren’t a bad thing, as long as you keep them short (less than 2 pages), they’re interesting and pertinent to the storyline.

    And if by page 75, the audience is clueless as to why Maleficient is the way she is, then it wasn’t necessary to the story. I don’t necessarily think the first 15 pages have to tell you everything as to why the anti-hero is the way they are, but should give you hints as to why they are angry from the first 14 pages, and then give you more hints along the way. That way when we reach page 75, it’s just the big reveal of why they’re like that. But to be successful in doing so, the ant-her must continually display his bad traits throughout the film.

    If we’re relying on his personality, then like Cool Hand Luke and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, he/she better have the biggest personality compared to the other characters in the script.

  • Randy Williams

    I’m pretty sure I know one reason the little girls in my life will be utterly drawn to this movie. Oh my god!, just the ability to lift one’s head up proudly and through missing front teeth, pronounce the title correctly.

  • ripleyy

    Do we well and truly care if Maleficent became bad in the first place? Isn’t it contradicting if we have a villain we learn to hate (classic Disney villains will be hated even if you’re past 50, it’s natural) only to come back to them years later and tell us there’s actually something good in them to start with? The whole point of a villain is for us, the audience, to hate them. To say they were once good completely vaporizes the original feeling we had for them.

    I don’t know, it’s such a strange double-edged sword that can be wielded. In some cases, such as the “Star Wars prequels”, the story is actually pretty good because it tells us not just about the origin of Darth Vader, but tries to explain why some things happen in the universe that weren’t previously known.

    Films like “Maleficent”, which try and do the whole origin story, don’t bring anything new to the story because the universe the story is set in, is restricted at best. There’s nothing new it can bring to the story, nothing new to show us. It doesn’t expand the universe, so what’s the point in telling it if it doesn’t improve at least *something*? Doesn’t bring at least *something* new to the table?

    Maleficent was once a good fairy but fell in love with the wrong guy? Give me a break, that’s been done to death. I can see, despite this cliche choice, why they would want to tell this story – it’s essentially revenge, but…then…are we telling children it’s alright to exact revenge?

    • Randy Williams

      I think people are going to find something to love and hate about every character.
      .
      If you take away the vileness in Maleficent, then you make people hate her because she wears black and has horns like the devil.

      The broadway show, and soon film, “Wicked” failed in this way, i thought. There was actually something good in the wicked witch, but the people hated her anyway because she was green. O.K, Nothing new there, hating because of color. What’s the point?

    • Franchise Blueprints

      The reason Disney gave this movie the green light is because of Marvel. They found out it’s perfectly normal to tell a prequel story in the comic book industry and ret-conning your story is no big deal.

      The only truly irredeemable villain Disney has is Cruella de Vil. Anytime you realize puppy pelts make a beautiful fur coat. Ahh the good ole days when the PC Police and PETA didn’t exist. I would pay twice if they did a live action version and made it PG-13. Just the thought of some soccer mom getting her panties in a knot over killing puppies to make a coat is satisfaction by itself.

  • ChadStuart

    Yes, little girls know the story of “Sleeping Beauty”. It’s been readily available on video for years now. Girls know Aurora (she’s called Briar Rose when in hiding in the woods with Flora, Fauna and Merriweather, by the way). Girls visit the Disney theme parks by the millions each year and line up to get the autograph of Aurora. My two year-old daughter knows her very well.

    Also, amongst a large set of the teenage and young adult girl segment, Maleficent is an incredibly popular villain. They recently updated the daily parade at the Magic Kingdom to include a life size, moving replica of Maleficent in dragon form (that even breathes fire), and people go nuts over it.She’s especially popular amongst the still strong goth teen crowd. There’s plenty of data Disney looked at to prove that this was a well known property to explore for a tentpole.

    Now, how successful that will be, I’m not sure. But, I think the science behind the greenlight was sound, even if the script lacked the necessary quality.

    • Casper Chris

      Also, amongst a large set of the teenage and young adult girl segment, Maleficent is an incredibly popular villain. They recently updated the daily parade at the Magic Kingdom to include a life size, moving replica of Maleficent in dragon form (that even breathes fire)

      Reading this was a bit unnerving. Not sure why. Maybe because in my mind, it was the voice of Patrick Bateman.

  • Logic Ninja

    “Whenever you write a script, one of the key decisions you have to make is where to start your story. The idea is to start as CLOSE TO THE ‘KEY STORY’ as possible.”
    Although I haven’t read the MALEFICENT script myself, I may have to disagree slightly. When you’re dealing with IP–with, that is, a well-known story–it might actually work AGAINST you to start your story too late. For instance, in TITANIC we know the ship’s gonna go down. It’s that delightful anticipation that makes Jack and Rose’s relationship so interesting: it’s a relationship doomed to suffer some kind of tragedy.
    Sure, this wouldn’t work with DIE HARD–because we don’t already know the terrorist attack is coming. It’s not an IP story.
    However, with Maleficent, the spinning-wheel-sleep story is the writers’ ace in the hole. The final card up their collective sleeve. It’s what we’ll come to the theater to see–so make us wait for it. Give us tantalizing details. Tease. (I guarantee you, the new GODZILLA movie will do the same).
    Plus, since we already know Maleficent herself is the bad guy–since we know the spinning-wheel story is a-comin’–this colors everything she does beforehand. We know full well, whatever efforts she makes to do the right thing are doomed to failure.
    Sure, the writers of Titanic coulda sunk the ship in the first thirty minutes–but would we really have sat around for the next two and a half hours, when the event we came to see is already over?

    • bluedenham

      Absolutely agree. Brilliant.

    • JakeMLB

      I agree with your general point but in Titantic they didn’t start the story fifteen years before the sinking, jump to seven years before the sinking, jump to the sinking, and then jump to twenty years later. The story literally starts with the boarding of the ship (i.e., as close to the key story as possible) so you’re somewhat arguing against yourself. Sure it’s relative to the story at hand, but anytime you’re jumping decades in time it becomes harder to maintain intimacy between the story and your audience because the older/younger versions often feel like different characters.

      • Logic Ninja

        Great point! Jumping around in time is rarely a good idea; I’ll narrow my comment a bit by saying it MIGHT actually be a smart move to have Maleficent and Aurora meet on page 75, or even page 105–but ONLY (and this is one enormous only) if the preceding 75 or 105 pages are rockin’ awesome.
        They gotta build momentum every step of the way, while giving tantalizing hints of the fortuitous meeting to come. Example: THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (SPOILERS). Katniss doesn’t enter the arena till 3/4ths of the way in–because the Games are what everyone came to see. Of course, if those first 3/4ths of the movie had sucked, that’d be one thing. Heck if they were full of time jumps…worth matinee pricing at the local dollar theater. Maybe.

      • Casper Chris

        in Titantic they didn’t start the story fifteen years before the sinking, jump to seven years before the sinking, jump to the sinking, and then jump to twenty years later. The story literally starts with the boarding of the ship(i.e., as close to the key story as possible) so you’re somewhat arguing against yourself.

        Eehhh, doesn’t Titanic start in the present? With the divers and the old woman?

        • JakeMLB

          Eh, not exactly. Those time cuts are sparse and represent minor story setting devices, similar to epilogues and prologues. The entirety of the story takes place on the boat. There are no major sequences occurring during the other time cuts as there are here. And yes, time cuts can work, but as I said they’re risky and story dependent. They work well in biopics or biopic-like films about strong, larger-than-life individuals (like those you mentioned). Obviously this story demanded it but if it’s not working then it’s probably because of a weak premise.

          • Casper Chris

            I believe it’s called bookends/bookending (Saving Private Ryan uses it as well). Still, if James Cameron had heeded Carson’s advice of “starting as close to the main story as possible”, he would’ve started, like you said, with the boarding of the ship. But he starts 60+ years in the “future”.

          • JakeMLB

            Yeah, bookending. And using a bookend or starting with a flash-forward in no way invalidates the advice of starting as close to the story as possible.

          • Casper Chris

            It doesn’t invalidate it. But Logic Ninja was making a good point, using Titanic as an example. You posited that he was arguing against himself because Titanic starts with the boarding of the the ship. Fact is, Titanic doesn’t start with the boarding of the ship. We spend the first 20+ minutes many decades removed from the main story.

          • JakeMLB

            Fair enough. My point is that works on the beginning/ends of a story just fine as the bulk of the story (the story itself) occurs in one temporal space, which isn’t the case here (Maleficent). But your point is well taken.

  • shewrites

    Yes, little girls know the story of Sleeping Beauty. If they haven’t seen the movie, they have had the fairy tale read to them at nauseum per their request just like any other fairy tale.

    I can’t imagine that Disney wouldn’t have tested the story before launching it into production. I guess my only concern is what is the audience? Maleficent looks scary. In an interview, Angelina Jolie said that kids on the set were afraid of her.
    So no review of Tammy as scheduled today:-( If anyone has the script, I would love to read it.
    O.Hodge at outlook dot com. Many thanks in advance.

  • ASAbrams

    Maleficent isn’t an antihero. She’s a villain who happens to be the protagonist. That’s the whole point. Having negative qualities in the protagonist doesn’t make that character an antihero, and being the protagonist doesn’t make the character a hero in the first place.

    By making “antihero” a broad term that means “a character who does some bad or unlikable things,” the term has been rendered meaningless.

    Anyways, my children have seen the old Disney cartoon and I think they’ll be somewhat entertained by this. I’m at the least curious about what this will be, and what Angelina Jolie will do in the role. Not really going for the layered story in this case.

    • JakeMLB

      But that’s kinda the definition of an anti-hero: one who lacks traditional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, nobility, fortitude, moral goodness, and altruism. Typically those who lack traditional heroic qualities possess some negative ones.

      • ASAbrams

        Then how is that character different than the antagonist or the villain by that definition? A villain will have some positive characteristics, if he or she is well rounded or has any depth.

        On the other hand, a hero could have a flaw or two and not be an anti-hero. The definitions aren’t excessively specific, but they aren’t vague or this broad either.

        • JakeMLB

          I linked to an article below that contrasts nicely between anti-hero and villain. It’s most semantics but there are some objective measures you can use to differentiate.

        • mulesandmud

          If you make your villain into your protagonist, then they are no longer a villain, they’re an anti-hero, plain an simple. A villain is by definition an antagonist.

          However, there’s no such clear line between hero and anti-hero; it’s a gray scale, and on the darkest side of the spectrum anti-heroes can be as bad as any villain.

          • ASAbrams

            A character doesn’t suddenly change into a “hero” because they are the protagonist. The villain can prevent the hero’s goals–i.e., be the antagonist–while also being the one who drives the story.

            Just like, basically Freddy and Jason are the protagonists of “Freddy vs Jason”–they’re the ones driving the story; we follow them. They’re so not anti-heroes.

            But…you know.

          • mulesandmud

            You may have misread my comment. All heroes are protagonists. Not all protagonists are heroes. That’s why the concept of anti-hero exists, for those protagonists who don’t fit the hero mold.

            You may also have misread Freddy vs. Jason, or else you never saw it. The new girl on Elm Street is the protagonist. Freddy and Jason are both antagonists in a triangular conflict. The fact that a character drives a story (or that their name is in the title) does not automatically make them the protagonist, especially in a genre like horror, where the villain is often a central aspect of the premise.

    • brenkilco

      Yes, he’s tossing the term anti hero around too loosely. It’s traditionally a protagonist of less than heroic stature, with vices as well as positive qualities. It’s not the same as a reluctant hero(i.e. Rick Blaine, Tony Stark), or a rebel hero(i.e. Cool Hand Luke). It’s certainly not equivalent to a charismatic, villainous protagonist(i.e. Tony Montana, Little Caesar) or a criminal lowlife with whom we’re asked to identify simply because it’s his story(i.e. Henry Hill). Eastwood’s man with no name is often cited as a prime movie example. But even he may be a little too larger than life to quite qualify. Nicholson’s character in Cuckoo’s Nest is probably a pretty, good example. One that comes to mind offhand is the Joseph Cotten character in The Third Man. Just a bumbling schnook trying to do the right thing.

      The description of this screenplay suggests that the protagonist is a villain for two thirds of it and something akin to an antihero for the last third. Sounds pretty unwieldy to me.

      • mulesandmud

        Probably a mistake to get tangled in these semantics, and rare for me to take Carson’s side on an issue like this, but you’re using an awfully narrow definition of anti-hero, and one that largely misses the point.

        Heroism is much more a question of intent than of ability. A protagonist who does the wrong thing for the right reasons is still a hero; conversely, one who does things, even the right things, for the wrong reasons is an anti-hero.

        Holly Martins in The Third Man (one of my favorites) isn’t an anti-hero in any way. That he bumbles doesn’t change the fact that he fights for justice and his moral principles at every turn. Sure, he’s a bad judge of character and no good in a fight, but he’s pretty much as Byronic as you get.

        Of course the concept of an anti-hero exists on a spectrum, but villain-as-protagonist is certainly on that spectrum, and overall is one of the better definitions of anti-hero that I’ve ever heard. Tony Montana is a prime anti-hero example: he’s morally corrupt and flies in the face of most classical heroic ideals, but the story is developed in such a way to let us identify with him in spite of (and sometimes because of) that.

        The Mad Max films are a textbook illustration of the differences between hero and anti-hero:

        MAD MAX: Hero turns anti-hero. He’s a cop with family and strong principles. The family’s death burns him out and he becomes as brutal as the maniacs he’s chasing.

        THE ROAD WARRIOR: Pure anti-hero. Nearly everything he does is motivated by pure selfishness, even while helping a band of desperate, decent people escape from the barbaric wasteland villains.

        MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME: Anti-hero turns hero. The selfish Max makes a dirty deal with the civilized folks of Thunderdome, but rediscovers his moral line and sacrifices himself to help a band of barbarian kids.

        • brenkilco

          Well, as you say, we’re down in the semantic weeds. A protagonist can lie anywhere along the moral continuum from impossibly pure to inhumanly evil. But just saying that any protagonist not classically heroic is an antihero is a little vague. Traditionally heroism isn’t just about intent. It’s also about proficiency. Both wanting and being able to slay the dragon. So an anti hero as I understand the definition needn’t be venal. He can just be inept. And if he hasn’t at least some buried core of virtue, like, say Mad Max- a good example- than he’s a villain, not an anti hero. Tony Montana is pretty much irredeemable from the jump.

          • mulesandmud

            Recall that in Scarface, Tony supports his family despite his mother’s unabashed contempt for him, and ultimately declares war on a cartel that he can’t hope to defeat because they want to kill women and children and he refuses to help. So he’s got some hero in there.

            Even Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer finds moments of sympathy and daresay even admiration for its hopeless immoral protag (Henry kills his rapist partner to save a woman’s life).

            I’m trying hard to think of a protagonist that I would consider neither hero nor anti-hero, but no one comes close. They’d have to get a hell of a lot more one-sided or unrelatable than anyone we’ve mentioned so far, and at that point we’re talking about anti-characters or anti-stories more than anti-heroes. If you can think of someone that really shatters the paradigm, by all means shout it out.

            Or feel free to gong me if this is getting old, but I don’t think we’ve hit a wall yet.

          • brenkilco

            Well let’s see. Tony starts out a hired killer, becomes a drug dealer, supports his family principally because he harbours an incestuous passion for his sister, steals his boss’s wife, later toys with his boss before shooting him in cold blood, agrees to murder an innocent government official-though admittedly not his kids- kills his best friend just because he thinks the guy’s had sex with his sister, and degenerates into a paranoid coke fiend. If he qualifies as an anti hero then I’m probably not going to be able to come up with a protag who doesn’t, unless somebody comes out with a sympathetic Hitler bio.

          • mulesandmud

          • brenkilco

            And Bruno Ganz is such a likable actor. It’s official. Everybody is an antihero.

          • astranger2

            James Caan in Thief maybe? Stephen King’s Carrie?

          • mulesandmud

            Caan is an anti-hero, for sure, and a damn cool one.

            Carrie is a cut-and-dry hero, a total sweetheart. It’s hard to even blame her for any of the bad things she does; her list of scapegoats is endless (child abuse, religious fanaticism, bullying, menstruation, telekinetic overload, etc).

          • astranger2

            In Carrie’s case, however, I felt a little bad for the gym teacher. Collateral damage, I guess. But after being doused in pig blood at the prom, she was in need of more than a metaphorical bath… ; v )

          • Franchise Blueprints

            If you were referring to the original Scarface I would agree. He was the movie version of Frank Nitti.

            The remake of Scarface he’s a migrant farmer who rose to the top just to be killed by other migrant barefoot farmers in the end. That humble beginning gives him some level of redeemable quality.

          • JakeMLB

            That is the literal definition: a central character who lacks conventional heroic attributes. And it’s purposely vague for the reasons you’re debating, namely that restricting the definition can be challenging if not impossible.

            Anti-heroes too exist on a spectrum, and somewhere along that spectrum there is a blurring between hero and anti-hero, particularly when considering that what one defines as morally good or bad behavior is largely subjective. Well defined characters are by their very nature complex and display a range of traits both positive and negative which can muddle interpretation.

            There probably is a nice academic paper to be written here but it’s mostly just semantics in the end.

            I like to think of it in general screenwriting and story terms. The first act is typically an introduction into the hero’s normal world. If within the hero’s normal world, there is an emphasis on his/her negative traits but a glimpse of some redeeming positive quality (a “positive flaw” so to speak), I would tend to think of him/her as an anti-hero. Of course it’s more complex than that. But most anti-heroes that I think of don’t typically have a negative character flaw that they need to overcome — that’s usually the archetype of a traditional hero.

            EDIT: Found this link that actually does a nice job of dissecting this further. It gets into not just intent (or motive) but means, position on the relative moral scale (this is key!) and the resultant world balance if he/she wins.

            http://fantasy-faction.com/2011/antihero-vs-villain

          • mulesandmud

            Great quote at the end…

            Orson Scot Card: “The true ‘anti-hero’ is rare in fiction. Most seeming anti-heroes are really heroes who need, metaphorically speaking, a bath.”

          • JakeMLB

            Hah, yes, I should have highlighted that. Strikes the heart of this discussion doesn’t it? But that begets the question: “Who then is a true anti-hero?”

            :P

          • brenkilco

            You want an indisputable anti-hero. Get Carter just came out on blu ray. Michael Caine’s character is a vicious, sadistic, sociopathic gangster. The sort who would knife a guy to death just for inconveniencing him. But he’s cooler than the thugs he’s up against. And since he’s avenging his brother’s death there’s an aspect of justice to his actions. Although in his case justice involves framing the head villain by cold bloodedly murdering a prostitute with a lethal drug injection and leaving her corpse on his lawn, then torturing the big guy’s helpless, henchman before smashing his skull in with a rifle butt. Carter inhabits the outermost reaches of anti-heroism, which is part of what makes the movie so interesting.

          • JakeMLB

            Yeah, it works well in revenge flicks. It also almost always work when your villain is even more reprehensible than your anti-hero. It’s all about your positioning on the scale of moral abhorrence.

        • Franchise Blueprints

          Tony Montana’s fall from grace was killing Manny then getting his sister killed in the process. Because he viewed his sister in more than a platonic fashion. Up until that point his character was the ultimate underdog bad guy.

  • wlubake

    My take on whether little girls know Sleeping Beauty: This film is made for kids, but marketed to moms. The whole Disney Princess thing may be a more recent marketing spectacle, but the world of Disney Princesses has been popular among young girls for a long time. My son is 4. He has lots of friends who are girls. They all know Sleeping Beauty because it was one of moms’ favorite movies, and mom shows it to them. Mom is more excited about Maleficent than daughter. But she’ll take daughter on opening weekend, and daughter will be get into it.
    My bigger concern is that it is live action. Per my experience, animation just keeps my 4 year old’s attention better than live action TV or movies.

    • Franchise Blueprints

      Funny how things work positively in one situation but not another. Disney’s promotion of its princess / fairy characters gets the nod of approval from women. Mattel’s promotion of Barbie is don’t promote that unhealthy size 4 body type nod of denial from women. While Sports Illustrated Kate Upton get my full undivided attention. What were we talking about again?

  • PoohBear

    Wicked, the broadway musical, might be similar, in that story the wicked witch of the west was just different and misunderstood and we empathized with her.
    Maybe they’ll do that type of story here, her origin story of why she grew bad. Based on the previews, she looks bad and super villainy and I really like it. I trust Disney’s stories, they have a good track record. I think this is a win.

  • dawriter67

    Okay. I’m lost. In Carson’s review, when Aurora falls into a deep sleep at 16 Maleficent is screwed. I thought Maleficent gave the apple to Aurora to out her in a deep sleep and isn’t that what she wanted?

    • Ryan Sasinowski

      The apple is from “Snow White.”

      • MaliboJackk

        Man… you know your literature.

        • dawriter67

          My bad – wasn’t thinking right on a Monday groan

  • mulesandmud

    Kids still love Sleeping Beauty. Me too; that illuminated manuscript animation style is still one of the best choices that Disney ever made.

    The trailers for Maleficent look pretty muddled, but let’s keep our eye on the ball here. Disney could easily have rested on its laurels and just remade Sleeping Beauty (or any film from its huge, massively popular catalogue). Instead, they opted for a more unique direction: a complete inversion of one of its own classics. It’s still a cash grab, but it’s a cash grab with a hint of vision, which is better than nothing, I guess. By studio standards, downright bold.

    We’re all so burnt on remakes and the ‘franchise’ approach in general. Lots of us default to cynicism as another beloved ‘property’ is recycled so that a studio can print more money.

    That’s a shame, because there’s a grand literary tradition at work in the idea of reframing classic stories to find the antagonist’s perspective, from Paradise Lost to John Gardner’s novel Grendel (carefully, say his name twice more and he’ll appear) and beyond. Hell, James Cameron did it to himself with Terminator 2.

    At best, this type of concept is a junction where art and marketing can meet without diluting each other. With that in mind, try not to rule it out on principle alone.

    • grendl

      Say it soft and its almost like praying.

      • Franchise Blueprints

        rotflmfao

    • kenglo

      Exactly…..if they are going to re-invent the story, what better way to do it? Personally, it’s a bold move that any of the ones I mentioned before (Alice, Snow White, OZ, Jack) were made, and in some form or the other, highly successful. If anything, they will make money due to Jolie, and up and comer Elle.

    • Midnight Luck

      Loved reading Grendel as a high schooler. Was one of my favorite books. Taking the story from Grendel’s side was brilliant. Would have much rather read that than the Moby Dick tripe we were forced to read and dissect over an entire year in English class.

      Much like Rosencrans and Guildenstern are Dead, a story based on Shakespeares famous grave diggers and their perspective, just awesome.

  • kenglo

    ALICE IN WONDERLAND, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, JACK THE GIANT KILLER, OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL……..I don’t think Disney is gambling at all.

    • Franchise Blueprints

      I was thinking the same thing. All Disney has to do is paste their logo above a movie title. Guaranteed brand loyalty profits. Even John Carter made money – only 30 million.

  • Midnight Luck

    Don’t have children, cant stand humans or babies, have a hankering for chaos and evil….. wait that was Maleficent talking:

    No real interest in this. Love dark stories, but already tired of the monkeying with old fairytales shtick. Snow white and the Huntsman was garbage, and after such a huge sale? Now it is just a lame idea carried out over whatever ancient Disney movie they try to regurgitate. Plus if the film is anything like the story in your review I “yawn”

    My favorite DARK Disney was The Black Cauldron. But they made it disappear. It pops up on google witj a different title (something happy and perky) yet it has never been released. That was a dark Disney, and it was great. I do wish this would come back from the dead.

    • kenglo

      I didn’t like it at first, having perused the script before viewing, was not impressed with the writing, but cannot argue the concept. But after the kids watched it for the umpteenth time, it kind of grows on ya, despite its flaws. So, question – you don’t feel that spinning these stories around to create a fresh and different take on it is a good idea? If there was one thing going for all of these regurgitated films , it was the concept of flipping them, agree? Love your comments BTW…

      • Midnight Luck

        Well i didnt see any of the ones you commented on below, except huntsman, none of them were interesting to me. Huntsman only because of the sale to see what the hoopla was about. It was sad to see how bad the movie was . I got tired of it after that and Lincoln the vampire guy came out. I guess some of it is interesting, but i dont find it highly creative, it seems a bit lazy to me actually. I know many will disagree. If it were really so great an idea to make most of these why do they all suck? (From a $ standpoint they do well, but why isnt the writing goodfor any of them?

        • kenglo

          Good point…Jack the GIANT SLAYER was good though

          • Midnight Luck

            didn’t see it. The preview made it look so much like it was for a very young demographic, it just didn’t interest me. Maybe I’ll give it a shot at some point, but there are so many movies out there to see, and I already see so many it is hard to find time to fill in with ones I don’t care much about.

      • Midnight Luck

        So you’ve seen this movie a few times already? How, is it released yet? Did i miss it?

        • kenglo

          I was talking about Snow White – the script and then the film….

    • witwoud

      “Already tired of the monkeying with old fairytales shtick.”

      Exactly. We’re supposed to think this is clever and alternative but frankly it’s stale already. We’ve already had SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, and WICKED, and RED RIDING HOOD, and MIRROR MIRROR, and SHREK, and ENCHANTED, so it’s hard to get excited about MALEFICENT. I’d much rather see a film that creates a new mythology instead of ironically ragging on an old one.

      • Midnight Luck

        My point exactly. You just made it clearly. I fear my point got muddled.

        And that is what i was saying below. I think these mutations are kind of lazy, as the writer knows the characters someone else created, they know the world and setup. They rearrange a few things and call it good. It would be one thing if any were done well, but it isnt happening. They are subpar examples of writing. (Although i did actually like most of Enchanted. Every time the hero guy broke into song i busted up, cause i hate breaking into song in movies as well).

        I agree, setting up your own world, story and mythology, now that is something.

  • kenglo

    Sooo…WTF is IP….???///

    • Midnight Luck

      Intellectual Property.
      It can mean other things, but in screenwriting, that is what people are usually referring to.

      • kenglo

        I’m a network guy – Internet Protocol…..I was getting confused….

  • kenglo

    So quick question – does this logline give you the necessary gist of the story and a hook?

    A young warrior must choose between love and the destruction of the galaxy when he is sent to Earth to terminate an exiled princess.

    • MaliboJackk

      (Save the punchline for the end.)

      A young warrior is sent to Earth to terminate an exiled princess.
      Now he must choose between love — and saving the galaxy from destruction.

      • kenglo

        Sent to Earth to terminate an exiled princess, a young
        warrior must choose between love and loyalty with the destruction of our planet as a possible outcome.

  • Casper Chris

    Yea, someone used it as Independent Producer recently. I was hella confused, but didn’t say anything.

  • filmklassik

    Snooze. These sorts of discussions are ridiculous and betray a kind of amnesia about movie history. Audiences can EASILY identifiy with characters living “outside the law” — and I don’t just mean Robin Hood types who are breaking the law so as to serve others. I mean real, self-serving, renegade outlaws like:

    McQueen in THE GETAWAY and THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR

    Eastwood in THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT and ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ

    Newman and Redford in BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and THE STING

    Beatty and Dunaway in BONNIE AND CLYDE.

    Elliot Gould in THE SILENT PARTNER

    James Caan in THIEF

    The list goes on.

    And this isn’t even mentioning audience identification with cold-blooded KILLERS such as MacMurray and Stanwyck in DOUBLE INDEMNITY, William Hurt and Kathleen Turner in BODY HEAT, and Ray Milland in DIAL M FOR MURDER.

    Like I said: Amnesia. Unbelievable.

    • Midnight Luck

      I so agree.
      Bastards are awesome.
      The most beloved characters in PULP FICTION were Vincent and Jules.

    • witwoud

      Yeah, audiences can identify with baddies, but you don’t think it just happens, do you? Don’t you think there might be a bit of SKILL involved in making us root for them? That was Carson’s point. So snooze to you.

      • filmklassik

        Thank you, wit. And I agree with you. But doesn’t ALL writing require “a bit of skill” to be successful?

      • Midnight Luck

        So true. It takes even more work, most likely, to make a bad guy lovable.

  • mulesandmud

    Not sure what you’re begging, exactly. I posted those exact same words already: “Not all protagonists are heroes.” Do you mean something else, or did you fail to read my comment?

    If you meant “not all heroes are protagonists”, then we disagree. Otherwise the word ‘hero’ simply becomes a synonym for ‘good person’. Your Keitel example suggests that the most heroic person in any story is its automatically its hero. That’s ridiculous. Thelma is the hero of Thelma & Louise. If you don’t think so, then you’re more interested in semantics than storytelling.

    Plus the logic for your terms seems imprecise and incomplete. If there are three criteria, then shouldn’t there be six permutations? What is your term for right/wrong/right? Or wrong/wrong/right? I suspect you have one criteria too many.

  • tr3i

    How do you root for the bad guy? As long as his motivations are “good” but the consequences of his actions are “bad” (where good and bad are defined by today’s moral standards) you should be fine. It may not make you fall in love with the guy but at the very least you’re going to understand him.

  • Dustin T. Benson

    I know I am late to the party, but in prepping my own fantasy spec – in a similar vein to Maleficent — this review has really came in handy. Thanks.