Maleficent is an evil creature who curses a baby and relishes in what she believes will be the child’s eventual downfall. What made her commit such an unspeakable crime? Was she always the dark twisty character she is portrayed to be ? Find out in Malefiecent – review after the jump.
Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) was not always evil, in fact she was anything but. A powerful fairy, Maleficent spent her youth daydreaming in trees, playing with her fellow Moor-dwellers and soaring above the clouds thanks to her powerful wings. One day a human male was caught stealing in The Moors, but instead of punishing him Maleficent struck up a friendship with him, which overtime turned into something deeper. As they aged they grew apart and the boy became a man, Stefan (Sharlto Copley), who was one of the King’s closest advisers.
The humans were most unhappy with their situation and wanted to claim The Moors as their own. Maleficent and the magical creatures were too powerful to be overthrown with conventional warfare, but Stefan believed he had a way to bring her down and in turn claim his place as heir to the throne. Stefan betrays Maleficent in the most horrible way imaginable, breaking her heart and sending her into a revenge-filled rage from which she could not bring herself back from. Hearing of the birth of the King’s daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning), Maleficent travels to the castle and curses the girl. The curse decrees that only ‘love’s true kiss’ can save her from a death-like sleep, which she will fall into on the eve of her 16th birthday if she pricks her finger on a sewing wheel spindle.
While the story of Sleeping Beauty shows Maleficent as being deliriously happy about Aurora’s downfall, eagerly plotting ways to bring the girl down, Maleficent shows something quite different. We see a beautiful fairy who had her heart-broken and in a mad rage seeks revenge. Sometimes it feels great to get someone back, to right a wrong, but after you settle down you realise you have done a very bad thing indeed and are filled with regret. This is what happens with Maleficent as she watches Aurora grow, lurking in the shadows and observing the young woman she becomes.
Maleficent is a simple story of revenge and of greed. Stefan thirsts for power and his greed drives him to betray the woman he once loved. Maleficent is good, she just made a bad decision when she was caught up in a painful spiral of betrayal and loss. Angelina Jolie is wonderful as Maleficent and it is her presence and charisma which carries the entire film. As the “evil” Maleficent she speaks every word so carefully and they absolutely drip with sarcasm and judgement. I couldn’t help think of Alan Rickman as Professor Snape, as she enunciated her words so precisely. When she was happy her smile and infectious laugh brought so much joy to the film. This film is Jolie’s and she absolutely owns it.
I really enjoyed the humour in this film and the fact that it didn’t take itself too seriously. There are many pithy one-liners which caused me to chuckle, especially interactions between Maleficent and Diaval (Sam Riley), her confidant. The three fairies who look after Aurora are also amusing, with Juno Temple so fitting as a daft fairy. The Moors were gorgeous, although they reminded me greatly of Avatar‘s setting. Not as much attention was paid to the human kingdom and it was rather bland (but that was partly the point).
On the downside the non-magical creatures (the humans) which featured in Maleficent were very one-dimensional and not at all interesting in any way. Poor Elle Fanning just laughed and looked carefree (which she did rather well), but there was absolutely no depth to her character – she appeared to be just going through the motions. Copely was awful as the King, as rough as guts and extremely monotone in his performance. This didn’t impact on my enjoyment of the film significantly as I was in it for Maleficent, but it could have been something really special if more care had been paid to the writing and casting of these two human roles.
Malficent doesn’t reinvent the Disney world in any profound way, but I don’t think it needed to. It was an entertaining look at the real story behind an infamous villain and is worth seeing for Jolie’s commanding performance alone. Now if I can just learn to say “what” like Maleficent does, I will be very happy indeed.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Robert Stromberg
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley
Runtime: 97 minutes
Release date(s): Australia & New Zealand: May 29 2014; USA: May 30 2014