Maleficent – 4 out of 5
Deep down, we love villains. Okay, we may not want to invite Hannibal Lecter over for dinner or accept hugs from Darth Vader but we all have a deep down curiosity about what makes them tick (I’m assuming we all do…I don’t want to speak for you). Often films give us a taste of what went wrong (or right, if you’re a sicko) in their life that brought them to a life of villainy but sometimes we don’t get that. In Disney’s classic animated film Sleepy Beauty, Maleficent isn’t really given much reason for her nastiness beyond being a little pissed that she was excluded from the list of attendees at Princess Aurora’s christening. This film takes that ambiguity and decides that, you know what, maybe there’s a little more to her perceived slights than we thought and maybe she is justified in it all.
|Plus, the film has a dragon...sometimes that's all I need to know in order to be sold|
Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a powerful fairy living beyond the kingdom of men who, one day when she’s young, meets a young man named Stefan (Sharlto Copley). Maleficent falls in love with Stefan but, since this is a villain’s horror story and a fairy tale, is betrayed by him due to his human lust for power and he cuts her wings off. This act causes Stefan to rise to the head of the throne and he becomes king while Maleficent boils with rage in her magical world. When the day comes and Stefan becomes a father, he declares his daughter's christening to be a grand event and Maleficent arrives to deal her revenge. The famous curse is placed upon Aurora. Stefan, filled with paranoia, sends her to live in a cottage and far away from any spinning wheels that she’ll prick her finger on. That sounds like the story we know until we see that Maleficent and Aurora’s paths cross and, reluctantly, the evil fairy’s heart melts for the young Princess. After Aurora unexpectedly learns the truth about her past, she confronts her father and finds herself falling into the curse. Now it’s up to Maleficent to save the girl and finally extract her revenge on the man she once loved and was so bitterly betrayed by.
|Maleficent, seen here about to get a rave going.|
|Tone down on the lipstick, young Maleficent.|
You are not going out like that.
My initial reaction after watching the trailer for Maleficent was, “That was so badass! I wanna see that!” However, before the film hit theaters, I started to second guess the film and wonder if I really wanted to see a film that would make me sympathize with an iconic Disney villain. The thing about Maleficent is that she is scary as hell. As a kid, Sleeping Beauty wasn’t my favorite Disney film but the evil fairy scared the crap out of me. Her green skin and ability to turn into a dragon and spit emerald-colored fire was enough to send shivers down my spine. A part of me didn’t really want to find any sympathies for her and I just wanted to see her as that powerful bad guy. However, after watching the film, I have to say that my second guesses were wrong because this movie was very good and I had no problem getting behind the character that was once such a horrifying antagonist.
|You can actually hear the Mortal Kombat theme queuing up.|
There is so much I like about this movie that it is hard to find a starting point. First thing you notice is the incredible special effects. The way they brought the magical world Maleficent exists in, the creatures that inhabit that world and the way they brought Maleficent’s magic and her ability to fly (when she has it) all looks incredible and really assisted in creating a fantastic world that looks legit, that's just over-the-top enough, and is easily capable of engrossing the viewers into it.
|Man...that is whimsical as fuck!|
|Gah! What the fuck is that?!?|
I was worried about sympathizing with a character that used to make me so terrified but what the writers did with the story of Maleficent was very creative and put a whole new spin on a character that, in reality, we never really knew too much about. Not only is the new direction they take with Maleficent truly interesting and very engaging, the neatest (and yes, I said “neatest”) new take they did with the movie was completely turn the original fairy tale upside down. The film does away with the outdated notion that a Princess needs a Prince to save her and shows us that, much like how Once Upon a Time did (and yes, I love that show!), that true love doesn’t necessarily mean the love between a Prince and a Princess but can mean a deep down bond of friendship and even parental bonds. I don’t want to spoil anything but the new way Aurora’s curse is lifted is far more satisfying and emotional than the one we all know too well.
|This couldn't look more like a metal music video.|
|"My name is Princess Aurora. My hobbies include|
touching the shit out of spinning wheels..."
You also can NOT overlook the cast in this film because they were incredible. Sure, I’ll admit that Elle Fanning as Aurora was a little lackluster but she plays the more naïve parts with Aurora quite well and that makes for some amusing moments with Angelica Jolie as Maleficent. Sam Riley, as Maleficent’s crow cohort Diaval, was very good and complimented Jolie’s performance very well. Finally, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, and Juno Temple were very amusing as the three fairies that raise Aurora out in the cottage and away from those finger-pricking spinning wheels. A lot of their gags were very Stooges-esque and probably weren’t the most uproariously hilarious stuff but it created for some smile-worthy moments that helped keep the film light and whimsical—not to mention that the special effects and motion capture used to turn these actors into tiny fairies was pretty impressive.
|Or they just turned the actresses into real fairies...I won't rule out that possibility.|
|Hmmm, it seems a young Stefan is also a young|
The true highlights in the cast, however, were Sharlto Copley and Angelina Jolie. I’m a big fan of Copley and have been since I first saw him in District 9. I am so glad that the film industry recognizes his talents and I get to see him become a big star because he has the talent. He is great as the obsessive Stefan who is quickly losing his grip on reality and falling into the cold embrace of anger and vengeance. His obsession with destroying Maleficent is not only performed well but it makes such a seamless transition of forgetting Maleficent as the antagonist and making her the hero.
|"I fell in love with a fairy and cut her wings off in order to become king...|
what could possibly go wrong?"
|Be honest, no one would bat an eye if Angelina Jolie|
decided to dress like this everyday. It works for her.
And now let’s talk about Jolie…Holy Cheese and Crackers did she knock her role of Maleficent out of the park! The way she makes the character sympathetic, wicked, and even funny is truly awe-inspiring and one of the best things about the movie. There was a dark, seductive nature to the way we see Maleficent give in to her feelings of betrayal and it was more than easy to understand why she reacted the way she did. The way Angelina Jolie is able to transform from being an angry and hurt woman who was betrayed by the man she fell in love with—a man from a completely different world, too—to a woman out for vengeance to a woman that ends up becoming the hero that we never thought we would see out of this iconic character was truly awesome to watch. Jolie made all this seem fluid and natural and ended up making an already interesting film just that more engaging and addicting.
|I'm scared of her but, at the same time, curious how her neck is so thin.|
I really, really enjoyed this film but there was one thing I wish the film did better. Even though Maleficent is very sympathetic and, as a viewer, we can feel her pain of betrayal after what Stefan did to her, I can’t help but wish they would have developed their relationship a little more so there was even more bite to how they feel about each other. As it stands, it’s fine but I couldn’t help but feel that Maleficent’s revenge and Stefan’s guilt that turns into anger and spite could have had a little more weight to it.
|I know I'm jaded and cynical but that is fucking beautiful!|
My complaints about Maleficent are small because the movie is really good. The acting is fan-freaking-tastic, the special effects are incredible, and the story is a fresh, unique take on an old favorite. Sure, at first, it may seem like Disney is just rehashing an old story, giving it a new coat of paint and waiting for the money to roll in and that’s exactly what they are doing…but they are doing it oh so right!