maleficentReleased: 2014
Director: Robert Stromberg
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley

Jolie is a magnificent Maleficent in this decent retelling


A rape analogy, a depiction of insanity brought by the relentless pursuit of power and the message that familial love is more powerful than teen romance. Not exactly what I was expecting from a Disney retelling of one of its own beloved stories but that’s exactly what I got from Maleficent , the live-action version of Sleeping Beauty told from the perspective of the evil eponymous villain who curses the baby Princess Aurora to a sleep which can only be broken by love’s true kiss.

Once upon a time… two nations live side by side in an uneasy peace. The world of man ruled by an arrogant King and The Moors, a tranquil land where fairytale creatures live happily. One kind young fairy, Maleficent, falls in love with Stefan, a peasant boy from the human kingdom. Betrayed by the adult Stefan who drugs her and steals her wings in his relentless search for power, Maleficent is left violated and distraught. Discovering that the now King Stefan is the father of a baby girl, Maleficent curses the child but she may not be as tough as her hard exterior suggests.

I don’t know why, but I always forget how charismatic Angelina Jolie is on screen. She is fantastic as the conflicted bad fairy: hamming up the pantomime baddie moments, breaking the audience’s hearts when she discovers Stefan’s betrayal and showing an adorably soft side when interacting with the young Aurora. There’s a very sweet little scene with the five year old Aurora, played by a gorgeous Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, if it doesn’t make your bottom lip tremble at its cuteness then you have no heart.

The rest of the cast isn’t quite so impressive but isn’t bad either. Sharlto Copley is completely over-the-top as the adult Stefan, driven to madness by his need for power (his Scottish accent is bewildering), Elle Fanning as the 16 year-old is sweet but not terribly exciting. The best support comes from Sam Riley as Maleficent’s loyal raven/human sidekick. The three fairies tasked with caring for Aurora however are thoroughly irritating and I have never wanted an Imelda Staunton character to be devoured by forest beasts more since Dolores Umbridge.

The visual effects are stunning, particularly the opening scenes which show the young Maleficent swooping over The Moors and interacting with a variety of magical creatures. The change in tone from this to the gothic nightmare of The Moors created by the pained Maleficent is quite impressive.

If I’m honest I wasn’t expecting much from Maleficent, I’m not sure that I approve of live-action remakes of classic animations but I really quite enjoyed this. I’m not sure it’s destined to become a Disney classic but it’s certainly an enjoyable new look at a familiar fairytale.


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