Maleficent Film Review
Princess Aurora is cursed to sleep for eternity by an evil fairy named Maleficent, and her only hope lies in “true love’s kiss” via prince. We’ve all watched Sleeping Beauty, and have seen the castle at Disneyland plenty of times. With Maleficent, we get to see the story from a different point of view that really updates the classic in a vibrant way. Angelina Jolie takes on the lead role, and she’s joined by a wonderful cast, including Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, and Juno Temple.
Academy Award winner Robert Stromberg directs this Disney fairy tale, his directorial debut, and weaves a remarkable tale. The film brings Sleeping Beauty to life in a magnificent way, fleshing it out with boldness. The are some visually arresting scenes in this movie that probably can be thrown into an indie, art-house film without anybody noticing. Everything is visually captivating, from the knights’ armor, to Maleficent’s costume, to the designs of the fairy tale lands. The script is also fresh enough that it’s not overshadowed by the classic, but isn’t singing the same tune either.
Angelina Jolie is near-perfect in the title role as Maleficent, a powerful fairy and protector of her home land that turns to darkness when she’s betrayed by an old flame. Jolie is deliciously menacing, and quite humorous in the role, a very likable villain. She also humanizes the character, and allows us to see that although her heart is bruised and blackened, she still knows how to love. Jolie is stunning in the role, and it may just be one of her best performances; this is her show, and nobody in the film comes close to stealing it. Sharlto Copley, of District 9 fame, takes the role of Stefan. Copley plays the distraught, power-hungry King very convincingly, making a valiant effort even though he isn’t given much to do.
Maleficent presents us with a beautiful retelling of Sleeping Beauty where a villain is humanized through the relentless power of redemption and love. It’s a very Disney-like theme, but it’s something that we need these days, especially because blockbusters usually lack a complex moral compass. It also evolves the meaning of “true love’s kiss” in a way that has never been done before in a Disney film. True love has ominous roots that touch more than romance, as we see in this fairy tale.
The main problem with this film is that Maleficent was not evil enough. It’s as if she was just a good person turned sort-of bad, while she was a full-blown villain in the classic. She’s definitely a strong female character, menacing and devious, but she never came off as the evil seen in Sleeping Beauty. That might’ve been the point, but it also might have been a more effective character arc if she was more convincing in action as an evil fairy.
Another common complaint about this film is the coldness of Stefan. Sure, he wanted to be king, and that’s the reason why he betrays Maleficent, but the transition is rocky. Stefan cared for her greatly, but turns on her so quickly because of a yearning to be king (wouldn’t he become king anyway?). The film might’ve benefited from fleshing that out more.
I know this is a Disney film, but it could have done with a little less narration. Narration is such a difficult thing to implement, and it doesn’t always work with this film. In addition, the rest of the cast isn’t really given enough to do. They do well in their respective roles, but nobody really keeps up with Jolie.
At the end of the day, Wicked was a more thorough and satisfying take on the roots of a classic villain; however, this film is still quite satisfying.
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