I know Maleficent premiered several months ago. However, my best friend and I saw it again a couple of days ago at the local discount cinema. Plus, Once Upon a Time returns this week and I feel the need to reconnect with fairy tales after a summer of absence.
Warning: Some spoilers contained in the synopsis
Synopsis: The retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story from the perspective of Maleficent. Angelina Jolie stars as the title character. Maleficent is a powerful fairy who protects The Moors, a magical land full of mythical creatures. Her homeland borders a country ruled by the cruel and superstitious King Henry. One day, a peasant boy named Stefan trespasses and meets Maleficent. Overtime the two conflicted teenagers fall in love. Several years later, King Henry decides to conquer The Moors and Maleficent defeats him. Henry promises his throne to anyone who succeeds in bringing down Maleficent. Stefan betrays Maleficent. She swears revenge and curses Stefan’s first born child, the Princess Aurora. On her 16th birthday Aurora will fall into a death like sleep after pricking her finger on a spinning wheel. Only true loves kiss will revive Sleeping Beauty from her slumber. Stefan commands the destruction of all spinning wheels and sends Aurora off to be raised secretly in the woods. Maleficent cannot stay away from Aurora and develops maternal feelings, inspiring her to attempt to undo the curse.
Review: Sleeping Beauty is a classic fairy tale. Several generations have enjoyed the animated Disney film. However, the original Sleeping Beauty film lacks depth. While enjoyable, the original does not give the characters any dimensions and Prince Phillip might as well be a piece of cardboard. I love the Disney Princess Films and they fill an important niche in the entertainment industry. However, as an adult, I sometimes crave a more developed fairy tale. Thankfully, Maleficent came along and saved Sleeping Beauty from the curse of one-dimensional caricature.
Angelina Jolie perfectly raises Maleficent out of caricature and into the realm of realism. Ms. Jolie perfectly captures the conflict Maleficent feels about her curse and maternal feelings towards Aurora. Throughout the film, Maleficent matures from villain to complex anti-hero. Sam Riley plays Diaval, the crow sidekick, and steals every scene. My one complaint with the film is the portrayal of Stefan. The climax was overshadowed by Stefan’s manic shenanigans during the buildup. Otherwise the film was amazing. Elle Fanning fantastically portrayed the ethereal Aurora. Brenton Thwaites’s Prince Phillip was slightly too old for Elle Fanning’s Aurora. However, he was rather dashing. The film has a great twist on the “true love’s kiss” plot-line and an uplifting message about redemption.
On another note, the cinematography was fantastic. The visuals pop off the screen and make The Moors come alive. Really, I have not witnessed such mythical visuals since Avatar’s Pandora. I did not see the film in 3D, but I bet it would look fantastic. More importantly, Disney finally realized that audiences crave fairy tales with greater depth. I hope next year’s live action Cinderella film is just as fantastic. If you ever tire of the run-of-the mill Princess Movies, I highly recommend this film. It is appropriate for both children and adults.