In 2010, Disney began ‘reimagining’ their classic animated films with Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland – a dreadful film that was a complete an utter mockery of the source material.
Now, in 2014, they offer us Maleficent.
Maleficent explores the untold story of Disney's most iconic villain from the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty and the elements of her betrayal that ultimately turned her pure heart to stone. As a young fairy, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) meets Stefan (Sharlto Copley), a peasant-boy from the human world, and they begin a romance. As time passes, the pair grows apart and Stefan takes a job working for a notorious king. The king wishes to conquer the magical land that Maleficent calls her home, declaring war. In a battle with Maleficent, the king is injured and grants that any man who kills her will inherit his kingdom – Stefan betrays Maleficent, cutting off her wings and thus becoming the new king of the human world (and the new Disney villain?). Driven by revenge and a fierce desire to protect the moors over which she presides, Maleficent cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the human king's newborn infant, Aurora.
Things I didn’t like:
The fairies, the most annoying characters in the film; they are treated like the Three Stooges!
Elle Fanning as Aurora; completely wooden, bland, and lacks the charm needed for the character; does not have the acting abilities of her older sister, Dakota.
King Stefan; Sharlto Copley is a fabulous actor, who is completely wasted on a character that betrays Maleficent, just because the script called for it.
Turning back the clock on feminism; Maleficent’s character motivations are due to a broken heart; I think there will be a lot of feminists who won’t approve of this film (and I must admit it offended me a little), but, in its defence, Maleficent is a fairy tale through and through.
Things that I did like:
Angelina Jolie’s performance as Maleficent; she is perfectly cast; the character is provided with an arc; and Jolie displays a humanity to the character that lacks in the original.
The story; though the films does have a lot of issues, I do admire that they didn’t go for a straight-up remake, offering us a little more than just a ‘she’s just doing it because she’s bad’ scenario.
The visuals; the effects in this film are very good; it looks like a live-action cartoon; has a dragon to rival Smaug!
The fact, that it is, unapologetically, a fairy tale.
Look, I’m not the target audience for this film, and the film does work on a lot of levels. The visual effects are amazing. Angelina Jolie is perfectly cast in the title role; she steals the film, rightfully so. Unfortunately, I can’t shake the injustice done to the character. Maleficent is one of Disney’s best villains, and the filmmakers do well by giving her an arc, but I just wish it wasn’t all due to a man breaking her heart.
Finally, as a fan of the original animated film, I wasn’t overly offended (this is nowhere near as bad as Burton’s monstrosity). Overall, Maleficent is serviceable and will probably go down well with the demographic it is aiming for – I probably would have loved this film, as a 5 year old.
I’m giving this 5.5/10.
Note: In 2015, Disney brings us live-action versions of Cinderella (directed by Kenneth Branagh) and The Jungle Book (directed by Jon Favreau). May God have mercy on us all!