Maleficent is like that one person who you’ve been told so much about by a good buddy, and then once you finally meet them, they’re not quite as cool as you thought they were…in fact, they’re bloody irritating. As much as you try to like them, you realise that it just isn’t possible because the truth is that their reputation precedes them, and as low as your exceptions are, their presence just does a disservice to them. To put it another way, Maleficent is the “Unrated, Extended Edition DVD” of Sleeping Beauty, and lets be honest, the theatrical cut is usually boss.
The story of Sleeping Beauty as you’ve never seen it before. Maleficent (Angeline Jolie) is a winged fairy and guardian of the magical moors – a marshland near the castle where no man is permitted to enter. One day she encounters a boy, falls in love, and is eventually betrayed by him when the king commands his men to kill Maleficent – that boy is the future King Stephan. From there the story falls in line with what you’ve come to know from the classic tale albeit with a twist on Maleficent, following her journey of redemption and forgiveness.
The film is trapped in the Bermuda Triangle between Snow White and the Huntsman and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. If you’re a fan of either, Maleficent should fit right in there comfortably…and hopefully get lost while it’s there.
The Bottom Line
If you’ve read my reviews, by now you’ll already be aware of how much I dislike a film with unrealised potential (maybe even more so than truly terrible films), so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Maleficent is one of those movies that just never fulfils the promise that we had expected from Disney’s marketing machine.
This is really just The Amazing Spider-Man all over again – the supposed untold story, the truth beneath the fiction. Well I can tell you that the only truth is that instead of making a movie that focused on Maleficent, they should have just made a damn Sleeping Beauty live action remake and called it a day because the weakest parts of this film by far are the often senseless shoehorning of Maleficent into a story that for the most part has stood the test of time.
But there is a silver lining, and even though Maleficent’s extra scenes largely lead to nowhere, Angelina Jolie is just exquisite in the role; she had to be considering the amount of computer generated imagery she was required to interact with. Thankfully she hit a homerun, but her digital counterparts weren’t as lucky. Don’t get me wrong, the visuals are gorgeous and one can tell that Disney spared no expense, but at the same time it all seems rather cold and lifeless. The bulk of the CG is taken up by the Moors, and while this veritable paradise of magic and fantasy is just a treat for the senses, the strange life-forms that inhabit the eviron look like garbage and behave like it too. The same can be said for Aurora’s fairy god-parents who behave in an even more buffoonish manner than they did in the original 1959 animated feature.
This world is devoid of fun – the complete opposite of what you would expect – in addition to being devoid of logic. King Stephan (played by Sharlto Copley) is madder than a hatter and we’re never quite given the reason for this, his motivations are poor and his choices poorer. This is a recurring theme throughout the film as the writers appear to encounter a lot of trouble in the attempt to make the world of Maleficent make sense, and sometimes it feels like they’re just grasping at straws and other times it’s just fabricated nonsense.
The film becomes a little easier to stomach once we move past all the exposition and get to the meat of the story – namely the Sleeping Beauty part – but at the same time, it becomes more annoying. Elle Fanning plays the role of the older Aurora, a doe-eyed idiot without an original thought in her pretty little head; this makes me angry because Disney has been actively trying to change the way we perceive their princesses and instead of giving us someone strong, it’s just another carbon copy of the weak, bird-brained simpleton that we’ve come to tolerate.
Maleficent is an entertaining movie with a lot of problems. For one, the concept is balls and every Maleficent-centred story change feels tacked on for shits and giggles and not of any real consequence. If they wanted to portray her as the heroine of the movie when all we knew of her was that she used to be Disney’s crown jewel of villainy; they should have dedicated more of the budget to writing instead of 3-D effects. Does this change up the Sleeping Beauty formula? No, it doesn’t, just as all the rehashed fairytales before it didn’t.