To refresh our childhood memories - Maleficent is the evil sorceress in the Disney 1959 classic movie Sleeping Beauty. According to the Ultimate Disney top 30 Disney Villain's countdown - Maleficent ranks #1.
"This story is not quite the one you were told."
Maleficent - The Movie - 2014
The movie opens with a soothing voice-over setting the stage between two very different worlds. All is seen initially through the eyes of Young Maleficent, India Eisley, as the voice calmly explains the two worlds - the world of man and the world of the forest and fairies. The world of man is filled with envy, jealousy, hatred, war and the deadly sins that plague humanity creating a hellish environment. And, the world of the forest and fairies beyond the moors is the opposite with impressionist paintings of land, hope, love and happiness simply put - utopia or heaven like. Young Maleficent, a fairy with wings, is an innocent filled with life, playfulness and happiness surrounded by glorious hues (think Avatar 2009) strange creatures, human trees (Lord of the Rings 2001) and fairies. The audience learns that this story isn't quite the tale we learned long ago but rather a different and more modern yarn. A yarn that subtly provokes questions on whether one can be only evil or good or both evil and good combined? Fairy tales keep evil and good separate but is this truly the case? Can someone love when the heart is cold? Is every action or word permanent in cement without a shred of possible redemption? All is nuanced and conveyed through the eyes, actions and emotions of Maleficent.
Maleficent does not completely follow the original Sleeping Beauty (1959) nor is it similar to The Wizard of Oz (1939) where there is the Wicked Witch of the West and Glenda the Good Witch or Shrek (2001) with a happily ever after ending. Rather Maleficent is a movie that addresses the challenges faced by humanity. The winds of life move swiftly and decisions are often instant with change ever present. It is a film that dances around Sleeping Beauty but isn't interested in focusing or embellishing an evil villain versus a vanilla coated "goodie two shoes". Instead it is a movie about life and the circumstances that can change a persons point of view either for an instance, for a spell or forever. And, can the choice or decision be revoked? This is why the movie is crazy good.
The Fairy Tale
"I had wings once, and they were strong. But they were stolen from me". - Maleficent
"Before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday, she will fall into a sleep like death!" - Maleficent
After the curse, the story marches forth with Maleficent having the choice to choose next steps. Upon meeting Aurora, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, opens her heart a little to love. As a baby, Maleficent emotes, "Ugly little Beastie". A strong connection between Maleficent and Beastie occurs when meeting over and over again. Baby-child Aurora, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, is the spitting image of Jolie and delightful. Jolie-Pitt touches Maleficent horns with interest and no fear. After all, it is her own mother in real life. Touching. It is the bond between Maleficent and Aurora that seals the fates. Maleficent realizes Aurora, Elle Fanning, maybe the key to peace between the two lands and more importantly provide the unconditional love needed to fill her own frozen and bitter heart.
"After all, there is evil in this world, hatred & revenge" - Maleficent
Maleficent is spellbindingly fantastic from start to finish because of one actress - Angelina Jolie. Jolie is magnetic on screen with the haute couture costumes, facial expressions and overall performance. The red lips, acting chops, British accent and script captivate the audience like a puppet being pulled on strings of emotion. Jolie is not a shrinking violet in the film, nor a belligerent bully with a "hear me roar" mantra but instead depicts a strong, fiercely independent woman-fairy fighting for what is right in both worlds even after making a few misguided mistakes. When Jolie breaks the stones with fairy dust, snaps fingers to transform her sidekick crow, Diaval, Sam Riley, into a human or glances sideways at the camera with looks that kill, the audience believes every movement, thought and action. It is the piercing eyes that launch a thousand thoughts and the razor sharp cheeks along with searing emotion that creates an illusion of powerful strength. Fanning fades in Jolie's presence. Stefan, Sharlto Copley, miscast, is a side note. Whereas, the three tiny fairies are hilarious: Knotgrass, Imelda Staunton, Flittle, Lesley Manville and Thistlewit, Juno Temple in a Three Stooges sort of way.
Maleficent is a memorable flick that can be seen many times over by teenagers and adults. It is unusual for a summer movie to evoke so much attention and will obviously win awards for costume design, set design and possibly more. Jolie has done it again! Maleficent is as was expected - brilliantly enchanting and entertaining with meaning and not just another sugar coated Disney story meant to entertain small tots. After all, with the charismatic Jolie at the helm why would the outcome be any thing different? Just try to look away from the screen? Impossible. Maleficent reminds us that humankind can make mistakes, can dance with the devil and through the power of choice make a difference or chose not too. Lastly, beauty, brains and strong convictions can create a powerful woman or in this story - Maleficent.
"Well, Well" - Maleficent
Note: The other star of the film may be the elaborate visual production, the creation of first-time director Robert Stromberg who won two Academy Awards as production designer on "Avatar 2001" and "Alice in Wonderland 2010."