If you watched Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ as a child and Maleficent scared you as did all children who watched it. Then this movie is for you, as you discover what turned her from a happy fairy into the sinister villain that we all remember.
Maleficent looks at the life of Disney’s most infamous villain. With the original animated version of Sleeping Beauty now 55 years old, this is the perfect time for this film.
The film starts with Maleficent as a young fairy child who lives in The Moors a magical world full of fae creatures, who are at war with the humans in the nearby realm. Then one day a young human boy comes into the forest and becomes friends with Maleficent – however this friendship is the start of events that will turn sour and turn Maleficent into the evil woman we all remember from the original story.
I went into this film with a bit of trepidation thinking it was just going to be another kids movie (A bit like ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’), however I was so wrong. Instead what I found myself watching what was a beautiful film, with great authors and a well thought out plot.
The first part of the film follows young Maleficent, her meeting with Stefan and the events that turn her into a bitter and twisted fairy. Then the story falls into the more well know territory with Aurora’s christening, and the following years until Aurora’s fateful meeting with the spindle.
The use of colour is totally amazing with the fairy land full of bright colours and amazingly thought up and different fae. Which contrasts brilliantly with the darkness of the castle and the human world. The effects were – well there is no other word than magical. The three fairies Knotgrass, Fittle and Thistlewit and the raven Diaval especially. And they have got the look of Maleficent herself just right, it really is like the animated version has come to life.
This is another 3D film, which doesn’t usually do anything for me, but when Maleficent is flying at the beginning you really feel like you are flying with her. It added depth and relevance to the film, without it distracting you completely, or feeling that it was pointless.
The acting was also top rate, when it could have very easily been pantomime-esk and over the top. Angelina Jolie manages to convey a happy and benign Maleficent, and then flip to show her dark and sinister side convincingly. I think she is even better than the original animated version. Also a big mention should go to Sharlto Copley whose portrayal of Stefan as he slowly disintegrates into paranoia was another amazing show of acting.
The story is slightly different from the animated version – but then this is from Maleficent’s view point. However there was a brilliant nod to the original, a simple shadow on the wall at Aurora’s christening that sent a chill down my spine.
Disney certainly have hit the jackpot with this film, a beautiful and entrancing film. I barely heard a peep from the vast amount of kids in the audience. Children will love all the different and creative fae (however some very young children may be frightened by some of the scarier fae near the beginning of the film) and there is a decent plot that is acted well to keep the adults interested too.
A truly magical film that shows even this most sinister villain was once good. Take the kids, or just go yourself, but go. This is sure to become a future favourite classic.
The Hollywood News
MALEFICENT came into the world off of the back of the success of television show Once Upon A Time, which gave viewers a deeper insight into Snow White’s evil Queen Regina – making her a tragic victim of circumstance.
MALEFICENT showcases a similar narrative, with the young Maleficent the light and soul of the Fairy Kingdom. A kind creature, she befriends human boy Stefan, an orphaned farmer, looking past the fact that their Kingdoms are sworn enemies. The pair inevitably grow apart as they grow older and Maleficent finds herself the victim of a broken heart which distorts her perception of the world and those around her. Paying adage to the saying ‘beware a woman scorned’, Maleficent curses Stefan’s young daughter Aurora.
Jolie looks magnificent as Maleficent, her already jagged cheek-bones enhanced to razor-points, making her look both ethereal and sinister at once. Her wings are indeed beautiful and powerful with a battle towards the start showcasing their brutal force. They also feature for longer than some viewers might anticipate which makes it all the more worse when she is stripped of them.
Had Jolie not been cast it’s not certain that there would be quite so much of a buzz around this film or that an audience could empathise with the character in the same way. In many ways it feels like a part that Jolie was born to play, with her being known for both her positive charitable efforts and her wild-child eccentricities. An accomplished Oscar winning actress, Jolie pumps pathos and venom into the character in equal measures making it clear that even when she is bad, you know why. Surprisingly there is also a great deal of humour within the film, most of it coming from Maleficent’s interactions with young Aurora.
Given that the name of the film is MALEFICENT Elle Fanning’s Aurora, aka Sleeping Beauty, doesn’t really get much scope to grow, and is rather 2-dimensional, all she really does is run around looking happy. This is no slight on the younger Fanning’s acting, it’s just a warning to those Sleeping Beauty fanatics out there that she’s more of a supporting character than a main. Sam Riley is also left on the side lines a little as Maleficent’s chief ‘henchman’; although not heavily featured, he is not your typical Disney butt-kissing minion, and isn’t afraid to put his mistress in her place when she needs it.
The film is of course a fantasy tale and in this day and age that means only one thing, CGI. The film is saturated with the stuff, some of it is stunning whilst other parts leave something to be desired – the three fairy protectors being the main casualties. In their human-form they are fine, if not very HOCUS POCUS like – the determined old leader, the kooky one and the young airhead, however in their fairy-form their features have been caricatured and look more than a little odd.
The first in what is looking to be a long line of Disney fairy tales brought to the live-action stage, MALEFICENT manages to elicit sympathy for one of it’s most famous villains, and women around the world will feel a certain kinship to the creature who gave her heart to the wrong man. Refreshingly the story also has a rather different spin on the ‘true loves kiss’ fairy tale staple.
Though on paper it is not exactly the sort of children’s film you’d expect, what with the story focusing on the villain, it does show children that there are two sides to every story. It may however insight some school-yard debates about who is better, Sleeping Beauty or the misunderstood Maleficent.
We’re fascinated with darkening things up these days. We like our superhero movies serious. George Lucas based a children’s sci-fi trilogy on a boy’s descent into evil. No one goes to a Halloween party dressed as Jamie Lee Curtis. And there’s the scary fairy tale update. This reinterpretation of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty puts a fallen fairy front and centre, which wouldn’t have happened in Walt’s day. While it might be a darker than the 1959 outing, however, it’s an altogether warmer version too.
Once a good fairy, Maleficent (Jolie) turns to the dark side when the king’s son, and Maleficent’s friend, Stefan (Copley), robs Maleficent of her wings in an attempt to impress his dying father. In shock, Maleficent swears revenge and waits until the birth of Stefan’s daughter Aurora (who grows up to be Elle Fanning) to cast a terrible spell: if she pricks her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel before sundown on her sixteenth birthday she will fall into a sleep that will only be lifted with true love’s first kiss…
Bar a lengthy set-up and a fleshed-out backstory Maleficent still makes shapes to follow the original…until it takes an unexpected turn. The Aurora/Prince (Brenton Thwaites) love story makes way for the emerging mother-daughter relationship between the unwilling Maleficent, trying to keep Aurora alive until her sixteenth birthday and maximise her father’s distress, and the oblivious Aurora, who believes Maleficent is her benevolent godmother. "The story is not quite the one you were told," goes one of the last lines. You got that right.
Unsure when Maleficent is all sweetness and light, Jolie grows into the character when asked to be badness personified. All piercing eyes and cheekbones, she’s enjoys herself here. Copley, taking the Bad One role as serious as Charlize Theron did in 2012’s darker take of Snow White, is great but they miss a trick with his Stefan. When stealing her wings he chooses not to kill Maleficent when he has the chance, and his obsession with keeping Aurora safe drives him to insanity, which suggests that he too is good underneath the bluster, but wonderfully-named writer Linda Woolverton (Alice In Wonderland), after going to the hassle of writing all that in, decides to leave it and turn Stefan into Mad Bearded King #205. Shame.
But this is a meatier and gloomier looking affair than the one you know. Yes there’s some padding afoot in the middle, and yes the heavy use of narration can feel like the movie is being read to you at times, but this is as worthy a reinterpretation you’ll see.
Den of Geek
Starring Angelina Jolie, Maleficent claims to tell the untold tale of Sleeping Beauty. Caroline finds out if it keeps Disney's old magic...
Everything goes around in cycles and, for Disney, this has manifested itself in the form of ‘untold stories’ based on supporting characters or previously misunderstood villains. After the unprecedented success of Frozen, the idea of a summer blockbuster focusing on Sleeping Beauty’s enigmatic bad gal Maleficent didn’t seem like such a crazy idea and, with news that it would be Angelina Jolie donning the horns and black cape, Maleficent suddenly became one of the more anticipated films of the summer season.
The relatively recent trend for darker interpretations of family-friendly properties has been tricky to get right, what with the difficulty of balancing more complex material with nothing more commercially troubling than a 12A classification, and stories focusing on villainous characters make that process even harder. Maleficent, then, with or without the fresh memory of Frozen proving that it can be done, is a confused movie. It never quite decides what it wants to be, and sadly falls just shy of its considerable potential.
Production designer and first-time director Robert Stromberg (Alice In Wonderland, Oz The Great And Powerful) is at the helm and, unsurprisingly given his credits, the film looks absolutely gorgeous. From Jolie’s costume to the sweeping shots of the moors, the film is a visual treat. But, as we know from countless films including Snow White And The Huntsman - another fairytale retelling made in the same vein - style means very little without some substance to back it up, and this is where Maleficent falls down slightly.
Claiming to flesh out the backstory of a character that has become iconic despite a limited screen time and a complete lack of origin story, there was always the danger that, sans mystery, Maleficent could lose what made the character special in the first place. Here, we’re introduced to the titular character as a fairy protecting her land from humans and, as she falls for the ambitious Stefan (Sharlto Copley) and is subsequently betrayed, we witness her transformation from protector to that powerful, iconic character crafted way back in 1959.
The biggest problem is tone, which veers from family-friendly comedy and lightness to dark revenge fantasy and, periodically, a feminist fairytale in the same vein as many recent efforts such as Tim Burton’s Alice, Huntsman and, again, Frozen. There’s a welcome rejection of the typical true love narrative popularised by the animated movies of Sleeping Beauty’s era, which freshens things up a little, but, despite some interesting thematic detours, the resolution of the film still feels disappointingly predictable.
The sorrow-tinged version of the movie teased in that Lana Del Ray track and its accompanying teaser doesn’t appear often enough, and there’s also an inconsistency in the portrayal of Maleficent herself. Her motivations are murky, with the cackling, ruthless villainess that scared so many of our younger selves only appearing in one re-adapted scene and subsequently absent from the rest of the film. The performance isn’t the problem, with Jolie getting the sadness and longing of the character across, but the emotional arc never really meshes with her established quirks and sense of menace.
Supporting her, Elle Fanning’s Aurora isn’t given enough to do to make much of an impact and Sam Riley’s animal sidekick is nothing more than someone for Maleficent to bounce off of, but Sharlto Copley’s King Stefan turns out to be one of the most interesting parts of the film. The top-notch casting for this film pays off in that, despite certain characters never really being fleshed out as much as we’d like them to, pretty much all of the performances are fantastic. Jolie is obviously the main attraction but, due to a smattering of genuinely powerful moments, she’s not necessarily the only thing you’ll remember.
Maleficent is in no way a failure, and it competently achieves what it set out to do with the titular character, but its unevenness renders the resulting movie something that both adults and children could find difficult to love. The considerable darkness and adult themes might be a little too much for little‘uns, for example, but then the jarring moments of comedy are often so disruptive as to wreck an entire scene, and a grown-up audience might also find it a frustrating watch.
Thanks to Jolie's central performance and its willingness to go to some troubling places, however, Maleficent is still a worthwhile stab at a very different kind of fairytale.
Maleficent is out in UK cinemas now.
There are many sides to any story, we are told. Maleficent suggests that the version of events in Disney’s 1959 Sleeping Beauty was a load of slanderous cobblers, besmirching a fairy just for having the temerity to possess a strong will, goat-like horns and a wish to put an infant in a coma. Maleficent was not, this story claims, an evil witch but a misunderstood woman, heartbroken, lonely and mostly very boring. Here, then, is the truth that gets in the way of a good story.
The opening pages take us to a land separated into two parts: one half housing humans, the other home to magical folk, among them four fairies. Three of these are your typical dainty wand-wavers, while one, Maleficent, has eagle wings and devil spikes but a good heart. She gives that heart to the wrong man and blah de blah winds up swearing vengeance on his first born, Aurora, in a repeat of the most famous scene from the cartoon.
At Aurora’s christening, two of the good fairies give her the gifts of beauty and unshakeable cheerfulness, before Maleficent huffs in and delivers her oddly specific present of a “sleep like death” when Aurora pricks her finger on a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday. We never learn what the third good fairy bestowed but we might deduce from the teenage princess’s credulous dimness that her final prize was never to be troubled by complex thought. The girl is a moron, repeatedly giggling into the path of probable death. It’s miraculous she survives to see sixteen.
There is unassailable confusion at the centre of this film. This is not a story of a woman’s fall to villainy, because it is constantly repeated that Maleficent is essentially good and won’t harm the child – minutes after giving the baby a death sentence, she’s feeding it when Aurora’s fairy godmothers don’t bother. So it’s not another side of the Sleeping Beauty tale; it’s a completely different story with the same cast and a couple of familiar moments. If the pleasure of these things is in seeing warped parallels with the original story then what’s the point if there are none and it arrives at a completely contradictory ending? It just doesn’t cohere to its simple conceit.
Robert Stromberg, graduating from visual effects supervisor to director, directs like a visual effects supervisor. Enormous care is taken on the magical environments, which have the same shiny box-fresh lifelessness of Oz: The Great and Powerful and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and very little expended on the real people. His mood is murky and his characters equally so. You might imagine that a character like Maleficent, whose animated persona was equal parts Norma Desmond and goth drag queen, would be fizzing with acid bon mots. Not a bit of it. She gets not one funny line. She gets three funny looks, which Angelina Jolie squeezes for all they are worth, perhaps just to have something to do other than sulk in trees. Jolie is perfect casting for a flesh-and-blood Maleficent, but she’s given a costume, not a role.
Robbed of her villainy, Maleficent has become – honestly no pun intended – a Magwitch figure, lurking nearby throughout Aurora’s life and trying to keep her from harm, despite being the one who set that harm in motion. She is baffling and boring. In the move to three-dimensions, Disney has flattened the poor woman out.
If this tiresome yarn is the ‘true’ story of one of Disney’s most popular villains then, please, give us colourful lies and happy ignorance.
it's out in few cuntries such as UK,Italy,France etc so anyone seen this yet?
Sources:1/2/3/4/5 - Rotten Tomatoes - Soundtrack