Disney has been on a recent kick of retelling its classic animated fairy tales, often with new twists and spins in tow. With the massive success of Alice in Wonderland, the studio likewise has looked for other stories to retell. This is where Maleficent comes in, which is based on one of its most iconic and evil villainesses. In Maleficent, we see what really turned Maleficent into the mistress of all evil; unfortunately, the film ends up downplaying this status, making her seem not that scary in the end.
Maleficent tells the story of two kingdoms: men and fairies. These two realms do not intermix or mingle, except for one day when a young fairy named Maleficent, one of the strongest and most powerful fairies, meets a boy named Stephen and their forbidden friendship blossoms. But, this friendship fades in time as Maleficent tragically loses her precious powerful wings and ability to fly, causing her to become bitter, vengeful and downright evil. She takes out her frustration on the human kingdom, cursing the king and queen’s daughter, Aurora, to die on her 16th birthday by pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel. But as Aurora grows up, Maleficent is always there, watching in the shadows for that fateful day when her curse will be fulfilled.
If you are expecting Maleficent to be a retelling of the iconic Walt Disney Sleeping Beauty, prepare to be disappointed. This is not Sleeping Beauty from a different angle, but rather is a new, modified story all together. Many key plot points are changed, making the two almost incomparable. Disney fanatics will probably be frustrated with the movie because of this. It’s hard to even consider Maleficent to be part of the Disney canon because it contradicts many of the events made in the original film.
That being said, overall the film is a delight. Angelina Jolie as the stoic (and almost stalkerish at times) Maleficent is perfect. I can imagine no other actress who could have portrayed the mistress of all evil better. She really steals the show, which is good because it’s named after her character. In nearly every scene, she is quickly able to convey deep emotion that really helps the audience understand her plight.
Elle Fanning, as the Aurora, actually surprises, although she lacks the grace and beauty that is usually associated with the sleeping princess. Instead, this Aurora is jovial, filled with awe and wonder, always amazed at the beauty around her.
The relationship between these two women is very interesting and significantly veers from the Disney original. Instead of Maleficent being in the dark about Aurora’s whereabouts for 16 years, she knows exactly where the princess is at every moment. Having nothing better to do, she follows Aurora around, lurking in her shadow. When the two do interact, it’s rather captivating since normally we see these two pitted against each other.
The visuals in the film are beautiful, especially the Moors where the fairies and other magical creatures live. The three good fairies have an interesting overly CGI-ed look, with their small bodies and oversized heads. It’s a bit shocking at first, but the look starts to grow on you. When they turn into humans, they become imbecilic loons, making them seem like doopy sidekicks, rather than competent protectors of Aurora. But, again, this isn’t your parents’ (or Walt’s) Sleeping Beauty.
Maleficent follows the recent trend of looking at the other side of the story for famous villains, usually showing that these characters are just misunderstood and not all that bad. Unfortunately, this film doesn’t do it as well as “Wicked” because it drastically changed the plot, instead of telling the story from a different point of view. Maleficent isn’t evil at all, which really hurts her status as an iconic Disney villain. You leave the theatre praising and rooting for Maleficent, which, in a way, is a shame. Can’t a villain just be an evil for evil’s sake?
Maleficent, while visually stunning and carried by the incredibly talented Jolie, is a bit of a disappointment. It completely changes Maleficent’s persona and motives in a way that is unsatisfying. Hardcore Disney fans might not be able to get over these drastic changes, but for the casual moviegoer, the film will no doubt impress.