Maleficent Film Review

Film Review by Mikey Collins

The Premise
The untold story of Disney's most iconic villain from the 1959 classic "Sleeping Beauty". A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman with stunning black wings, Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army of humans threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land's fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal - an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces an epic battle with the king of the humans and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom - and to Maleficent's true happiness as well.

The Review
When the saw the initial poster for this movie back before it had a trailer, I immediately thought, “Well there’s a role Angelina Jolie was born to play.” After seeing this Disney flick, my superficial assumption proved to be fairly accurate. Perhaps it’s attributed to her past roles in other movies that contain elements of fantasy like Beowulf and Tomb Raider. Or maybe it’s her profile outside film; seducing Brad Pitt away from Jennifer Aniston; her vague sexuality claims; her general naughty persona in the early 2000s… but then there’s also her ever more prevalent maternal image currently getting plastered in all the women’s magazines. Whatever it’s attributed to, Angelina Jolie suits the role as Maleficent like Jack Nicolas suited his role in The Shining.

In terms of story, I couldn’t remember the original 1959 Disney classic except that Sleepy Beauty is cursed and manipulated by Maleficent into a deep sleep and prince charming saves the day with an electric wake-up kiss. So, even after watching a fairly large portion of this movie, I didn’t realise it was a complete rewrite. The story, as it interpreted in this movie, is now partly an origin one, partly the 1959 classic, and partly something new altogether. This got some negative flak from the people sitting next to me in the cinema, who looked like Disney purists. But for me, I found this take to be progressive and fresh. To add to it, I did a little research and discovered that there are multiple versions of the story that exist with the actual original dating back to a France some 300 years ago. So historically there’s less reason to be loyal to 1959, but that’s a taboo comment.

As I already mentioned Angelina Jolie is the driving force behind this one. In every scene you’d be hard pressed to look away, even if it takes you a while to get used to those Himalayan-sized cheek bones. But another unexpected performance came from Dakota Fanning’s little sister Elle Fanning, who plays Sleeping Beauty. Her character will ‘grow in grace and beauty and be loved by all who know her’. That begs the question what element of this character will cause everyone who knows her to love her? The screenwriters chose the qualities of innocence and transparency… and I found Elle Fanning to get this one right on the money. I think the portrayal of innocence is a hard target to hit, you can come off superficial and sometimes unintentionally satirical. Fanning had a smile and glimmer in her eye that was so genuine and effective that I never questioned her character for a second.

As for the negatives, I found some of the woodland creatures living around Maleficent to be a little CGI-obvious and frankly out of place. Every time I saw them I was distracted by their googly eyes and the thought they’d somehow stepped off of the set of Monster’s Inc. or similar and the Maleficent crew never noticed and carried on filming. However, as soon as you see Maleficent again, you are quickly re-immersed in the story again. I also found the character played by District 9’s Sharlto Copley to be a little unclear in his motivations: he desires to be King of Men but you never really understand what he finds so attractive about the position and where and when he decided that it was THE ONLY THING he cared about. So a few complaints there.

I have a feeling this one is going to be divided between the 1959 purists and those who don’t mind a story butchering and can overlook a little CGI unpleasantness. That’s the trouble with making these Disney animated classics into ‘real-life’ movies, you’re always going to upset a few people. I for one enjoyed it, and Lana Del Rey’s Once Upon a Dream theme at the end credits was simply magical.

The Verdict
An worth-seeing enchanting tale about the power of true love.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 29th May 2014
Rating: PG - Contains sequences of fantasy, action and violence, including frightening images
Duration: 98 minutes 
Genre:  Family
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley
Director: Robert Stromberg (Debut Feature Film)

The Extras
Angelina Jolie picked Lana Del Rey herself to be the one to sing a version of Sleeping Beauty (1959)'s "Once Upon a Dream" as the main theme for the film.

On the second day of the 2013 Disney D23 Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center, Saturday, August 10, 2013, Angelina Jolie admitted that she scared little kids while in costume on the set of Maleficent (2014), with one kid actually said, "Mommy, please get the mean witch to stop talking to me." She adds that her daughter, Vivienne, played young Aurora, and was the only kid who wasn't scared of her. Apparently she was the only kid actress who they could get that wasn't scared to be on set with her.

All the actors and actresses in Maleficent (2014) were partly chosen to be in the movie based on their uncanny resemblances and/or likeness to their respective character counterparts in Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959).

Angelina Jolie worked very closely with the costume and make-up designers to develop Maleficent's menacing look. Disney executives objected, hoping to take advantage of Jolie's beauty in marketing the film, but the actress insisted that the character maintain the scarier look of the animated incarnation.

Angelina Jolie was definitely interested to be in the movie to begin with. She repeatedly stated it was because 1.) she grew up on Disney movies as a child, especially Sleeping Beauty (1959); she was quite fond of the character Maleficent: "Since I was a little girl, Maleficent was always my favorite," Jolie said. "I was terrified of her, but I was also drawn to her. I wanted to know more about her. She had this elegance and grace, yet she was wonderfully, deliciously cruel," 2.) she wanted to a movie in which her children can go see her in, as well as the fact that her children really also wanted her to be in the movie, 3.) the beauty, warmth, complexity and strong intelligence of the script, and 4.) she was very impressed with Maleficent's characterization for this film. In fact, Jolie also served as an executive producer on the film.

This film had the largest budget ever for a first time director, Robert Stromberg, surpassing another Disney film, TRON: Legacy (2010).

Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, who portrays Princess Aurora as a young girl, is the daughter of Angelina Jolie (who plays Maleficent in the movie) and Brad Pitt.

By coincidence, Maleficent (2014) will be released on May 30, 2014; precisely the same year as the 55th anniversary of Walt Disney's classic Sleeping Beauty (1959).