Synopsis: Maleficent explores the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the classic Sleeping Beauty and the elements of her betrayal that ultimately turn her pure heart to stone. 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. As the child grows, Aurora is caught in the middle of the seething conflict between the forest kingdom she has grown to love and the human kingdom that holds her legacy. Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land and is forced to take drastic actions that will change both worlds forever.
Release Date: May 30, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Thriller
For the last couple of years, Hollywood has made a habit of handing revisionist fairy tales over to audiences. Whether it’s the horror retelling of Little Red Riding Hood (Red Riding Hood), the fantasy adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk (Jack the Giant Slayer), or either of the two Snow White re-imaginings that have been offered up (Snow White and the Huntsman or Mirror Mirror), these familiar tales have met with moderate success, both critically and financially. Now, it would appear that it’s Walt Disney’s classic Sleeping Beauty‘s turn to get rebooted, but there’s a catch; Disney does it themselves, and the result is Maleficent.
Everyone knows the story of Sleeping Beauty, but not the way that Maleficent tells it. Maleficent takes place in a world where there are two kingdoms, the fairies and the humans, who are at odds with each other. Maleficent (Angelina Jolie from Salt) is the queen of the fairies, and she enlists the help of her army of tree-soldiers to fight off the humans. And they are successful, until Maleficent is betrayed by the one human she trusts, a childhood friend named Stefan (Sharlto Copley from District 9), who cuts off her fairy wings in order to become king of the humans. Maleficent does not take her defeat lying down, however; when King Stefan’s first daughter is born, Maleficent places a curse on the child, saying that she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel by her sixteenth birthday, causing her to fall into the sleep of death, only to be woken by the kiss of true love. Stefan hides his daughter away, and makes it his life’s mission to hunt Maleficent down. The daughter, Aurora (Elle Fanning from Super 8), finds her way to Maleficent’s fairy moors, stumbling across the evil queen herself. Maleficent, however, has a change of heart when she finds that she is moved by the girl’s purity and honesty. Maleficent and Stefan now have a common goal – keeping Aurora safe from each other.
The script for Maleficent was written by Linda Woolverton (a Disney veteran who worked on such classics as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast), and was culled together from the script to Disney’s 1959 animated Sleeping Beauty, the Grimm’s fairy tale “Little Briar Rose” which inspired that film, and the Charles Perrault story “La Belle au bois dormant.” The events of the narrative are pretty straight forward, but the point of view and emphasis are switched. The little alterations change the story completely. Maleficent is the hero instead of the villain, and she is a very sympathetic and flawed character instead of a ruthless and cunning antagonist. Comparing Maleficent to Sleeping Beauty is a bit like hearing the same news story from both Fox News and MSNBC; the basic story is the same, but the spin is completely different. In Maleficent, the evil queen doesn’t seem so evil.
All things considered, Maleficent is a very enjoyable movie. It’s dark and brooding for those who are tired of the sticky-sweet saccharine that usually accompanies Disney movies, yet still has plenty of cute creatures and silly humor, mostly supplied by a trio of fairies portrayed by Lesley Manville (Another Year), Imelda Staunton (Shakespeare in Love), and Juno Temple (Afternoon Delight). Angelina Jolie has a few campy melodramatic moments, but nothing as tacky as what audiences got from Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman. Maleficent moves quickly, gets in and out, and keeps the viewer’s attention. Compared to the other revisionist fairy tales to which audiences have been subjected, that’s a win.
The entire world of Maleficent looks to have been created in a post-production facility. That’s not to say that it looks bad – it’s actually very well done – but only that it looks very other-worldly. Just about every shot contains CG of some sort, whether it’s massive crowd scenes with trolls and tree-creatures or just a few butterflies circling a fairy. Interestingly enough, the CG never feels overwhelming, even though it’s practically the entire movie. It’s a fantasy world, so it doesn’t matter that everything is manufactured, even Angelina Jolie’s cheekbones. The 3D is used plentifully but tastefully, immersing the viewer in the environment of the film; it really adds to the experience, especially during the couple of battle scenes that bookend the film. Unlike many other 3D films, the 3D in Maleficent seems like it was planned from the start instead of being an afterthought. It’s worth the extra few bucks.
At first, it seems like a first-time director like Robert Stromberg would be a strange choice to helm a big budget Disney film. But once it becomes known that Stromberg has a long list of art department and production designer credits that includes, among others, films like Oz the Great and Powerful and Avatar, it become clear that he is a perfect fit. Maleficent almost seems like a live-action animated film, so it makes sense that a conceptual artist would be the right director for the job. It’s a very ambitious and large-scale production, and there is insane attention to detail taken in every shot. Don’t hold the fact that Maleficent is Robert Stromberg’s first movie; he directs the hell out of it, getting results from both his live actors and his CG creations.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Robert Stromberg
- Screenwriter(s): Linda WoolvertonJohn Lee Hancock
- Cast: Angelina Jolie (Maleficent)Elle Fanning (Aurora)Sharito Copley (Stefan) Lesley Manville (Flittle)Imelda Staunton (Knotgrass)Juno Temple (Thistletwit)Sam Riley (Diaval)
- Editor(s): Chris Lebenzon
- Cinematographer: Dean Semler
- Production Designer(s): Gary Freeman
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: James Newton Howard
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA