Maleficent Movie Review
Check out kidzworld’s review of a Disney’s Sleeping Beauty animated classic brought to fleshed-out, epic live action with Elle Fanning as the beauty and Angelina Jolie as Maleficent!
By: Lynn Barker
You know the iconic animated figure; weird black “horn” cowl/hat, long black and purple dress and cape, magic “staff” with a crow sitting atop it. That is Maleficent, the “wicked witch” character who curses Sleeping Beauty to her long nap. Well, Disney has brought one of its most frightful villains to vibrant live action and Angelina Jolie plays the heck out of the role!
This new rendition of the Sleeping Beauty tale focuses upon future fairy kingdom (called The Moors) queen Maleficent (later played by Angelina Jolie) as she happily grows up sharing her realm with magical wood creatures and soaring around using her magnificent and powerful wings. When she is a teen, Maleficent meets a human boy named Stefan who came to the Moors from the nearby human kingdom to steal a jewel but both are smitten and he keeps coming back to visit her. Finally, when both are 16, and she is totally in love with him, he seals their relationship with what he calls “True Love’s kiss”.
Raging Ambition and Betrayal
When the dying human king, whom Maleficent and her forest types have beaten in battle, challenges anyone who can kill her with the reward of being his heir, Stefan’s driving ambition makes him the ideal candidate. He already can get close to her! Stefan (now played by Sharlto Copley), betrays Maleficent in a really horrible way leaving her soul-less and full of a desire for the ultimate revenge.
The now King Stefan’s baby daughter Aurora is born after many lonely and angry years for Maleficent and she sees her chance to even the score. She comes to court to curse the child to prick her finger on a spinning wheel spindle when she is 16 and fall into a deep sleep that can only be broken by “True Love’s kiss”. Maleficent is sure the girl will never wake up because, after all, there is no such thing as a kiss from a true love. Look what happened when she believed there was!
To protect his daughter, Stefan turns her over to three inexperienced pixies (played with silly charm by Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Leslie Manville) who live with her in the woods, barely knowing how to feed her. Seeing the child possibly in danger of never reaching her 16th birthday, Maleficent moves in to secretly “help”. She also has fun teasing the pixies and enlists the aid of a young man she rescues from being beaten (Diaval played by Sam Riley) whom she turns into a crow so that he can spy for her.
Teenaged Curse Time
A 15-year-old Aurora wanders into The Moors, meets a handsome prince named Phillip (Brenton Thwaites) who is passing through and is intrigued. Aurora isn’t afraid of Maleficent and adopts her as her “fairy Godmother”. Already charmed against her will by the younger Aurora (played by Angelina and Brad Pitt’s real young daughter Vivienne), Maleficent finds that this teen princess is much like herself at that age, relating to the denizens of the forest with warm and fuzzy glee. When Aurora learns about the curse and that it was her new “Godmother” who conjured it, she runs back to finally meet her dad at the castle.
Having gradually been drawn to Aurora and seeing her kind spirit, Maleficent tries to reverse the curse but, on her 16th birthday, Aurora does prick her finger on the spindle and falls into a deep sleep. Maleficent’s efforts won’t make the curse go away. She brings Phillip to the castle and Aurora’s bedside to try that True Love’s kiss thing, even though she doesn’t believe in it but that doesn’t work either.
Will the unfortunate Maleficent somehow manage to wake Aurora before Stefan learns she is in the castle and kills her? Who will Aurora’s waking kiss come from? Will Maleficent ever be able to return The Moors to their early fairyland glory?
Two words are at the top of the plus column for this film: Angelina Jolie! She is amazing, totally succeeding in bringing a one-note, iconic animated character to rich, multi-faceted life. You can not take your eyes off her expressive, sharp-angled face (make-up by Rick Baker) whether she is relishing her vengeance or is shattered that it can’t be reversed. Her eyes alone express volumes. The real success of the film is in fleshing out this one-note character to give her a reason for her behavior and Angelina should get an Oscar nomination for doing so.
Unfortunately, the rest of the tale doesn’t fare so well. Elle Fanning is ideal to play the young, innocent princess but has little else to do. Sharlto Copley does an admirable job of portraying the power-mad king but his descent into selfish ambition isn’t really explained. The three pixies (are they pixies or fairies? They were fairies in the animated version of the tale) who reluctantly care for Aurora are so inept and relatively uncaring that their attempts at comic relief fall flat. Despite the well-acted portrayals, we just don’t like them. Sam Riley is sympathetic as Maleficent’s gofer sidekick made to change into various animals at her will but it seems he is really only there to represent the crow that the animated Maleficent traveled with and be a possible distraction, i.e. could he be true loves’ kiss?
The most baffling story turn comes near the end. I can’t discuss it without spoiling some of the film’s most poignant moments, but it involves Maleficent’s wings very suddenly and inexplicably “getting” a power of their own and “coming” to save the day. Talk about something out of the blue and contrived! Just bad story-telling.
The look of the film in production design, costuming, cinematography (even though all 3-D seems a bit “dark”) is stunning, creative and beautiful.
On the strength of Angelina Jolie’s knock-out performance alone, despite story flaws, I have to go four stars but without her, it would be three.
Maleficent Movie Rating:
Maleficent is in theaters now!