When a man’s ambition leads to the betrayal of a young woman heart, you find yourself within the remixed story of Sleeping Beauty known as Maleficent.
Review (with Spoilers)
Like a good majority of people, I found the idea of Angelina Jolie as a Disney villain exciting, and Maleficent, without question, fits all the appeals she has an actress. But, alongside the appeal of having Jolie in the film, also the remixing of an old story is quite interesting. After all, the Disney animated version came out more than 50 years ago and while Once Upon a Time has featured Maleficent, it wasn’t Angelina Jolie.
Characters & Story
When the movie begins, we are introduced to two separate kingdoms. One in which the humans live, and another in which fantasy creatures live, including Maleficent (Angelina Jolie). These two worlds, separated and peaceful, have little to no interaction with one another until one boy searches amongst the Moors’ (The realm of the fairies) land for their rumored riches. Said boy, Stefan (Sharlto Copley/ Michael Higgins), finds himself caught trying to steal a crystal like object so he can feed himself. Thus leading to him being confronted by one of the few human-esque creatures: Maleficent (Isobelle Molloy & Ella Purnell).
After shaming him to giving back what he stole, a sort of friendship blooms between the two, and with time it evolves to the point where you can see some semblance of young love bloom. However, due to Stefan’s ambitions to rise above being a peasant, this trust he built with Maleficent ends up used for his own personal gain. You see, around the time both he and Maleficent become adults, King Henry (Kenneth Cranham) has risen to power and wishes to claim the riches of the Moors. Thus leading to a battle in which he is defeated by The Moors, but especially Maleficent. And on his deathbed he promises his kingdom to the one who avenges him. So, Stefan returns to see Maleficent, with their time apart not being noted for he seemingly was never consistent when it came to visiting her. However, this time is different. He drugs her, and then goes to kill her, but is unable to. The reason likely being because whatever they had keeps him from taking her life. So instead he takes her wings, her most valued possession, back to his king. Thus leading to his rise, and a betrayal which leads to the great villain we have come to known.
Without a doubt, Angelina Jolie is the highlight of this film. She is comical, ferocious, and complex. Take for instance her revenge against Stefan by cursing Aurora (Elle Fanning). As you watch Jolie stalk Aurora, and even see if she can scare the child, you begin to see her soften. I would argue that she even sees Aurora, at times, like the child she would have had if Stefan did right by her. For while she has multiple opportunities to just let Aurora die, especially since the three pixies, Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), Thistlewit (Juno Temple), and Flittle (Lesley Manville), are morons compared to the animated version, she not only keeps her alive, but nurtures her to the point Aurora sees her as a fairy godmother.
And all the actresses who play Aurora, including Jolie’s daughter Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, create this lovable girl who you can see melting away Maleficient’s malice and helping replace the stolen bits of her heart. Leading me to speak on how they redid the story. While, I must admit, I wish they kept to the general storyline of the animated version, with a few touches so we knew what Maleficent was thinking, I didn’t completely hate what the new version of Maleficent’s story. I won’t say it was perfect, it was far from that, but it was adequate.
Quickly jumping back to talk about the three pixies, I personally did not like them at all. If just because they came off like the Three Stooges with their silly antics. Then, on top of that, I found issue with how they changed the story to do more than make Maleficent seem like a misunderstood villain, or even present the classic tale from her point of view. Instead, post-curse, they create a new fantasy which seems to not even be the least bit inspired by either the Disney animated version, much less the source material. It clearly looks to make sure Jolie shines, even if that means adding massive amounts of filler to the story to make sure she earns her paycheck. Thus hurting the film for this filler between pivotal and familiar scenes, while fun to watch because of Jolie, leaves mostly everyone else lacking in a multitude of ways.
For example, the story of Stefan cutting off Maleficent’s wings is weak for considering The Moors just went to war, at the time, with the humans, and now one is around their unofficial queen, it is odd to me that no one saw him drug her, almost kill her, much less see him cut off her wings and take them out of their kingdom. For, even if it was nighttime, you’d think one of the creatures would have been awake and heard something.
Overall: TV Viewing
While I love Angelina Jolie, and do wish she would participate in more movies, at the same time it makes her rare appearances all the more worthwhile. And, without any doubt, I can definitely say that I can’t imagine any other actress who could play Maleficent. But, even with that said, Jolie is so relied on to make this film watchable that you are left with the feeling that Disney, in fact, is just trying to cash in. Though I do hope it does well if just because I would like to see Ursula get her own movie. Hopefully with the production actually inspired, and focused, on the source material.