I grew up on classic fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty. I was swept away by the magical and kind-hearted fairies, frightened by the evil Maleficent and her wicked curse, and overjoyed when the valiant Prince Phillip defeated the witch in her monstrous dragon form and saved Aurora from her awful fate. As a child, I didn’t question or wonder at Maleficent’s reasoning or motivation behind her curse. I simply knew that she was a bad person who did bad things. Now as an adult, I know things aren’t always so black and white. With Disney’s Maleficent, we are given great depth and understanding into the titular character while still being swept away by the magic shown on the big screen.
The film’s official synopsis is as followed: “A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army 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 invading king’s successor 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 perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well.”
Don’t be fooled into thinking that if you’ve seen the original Disney film, you know how Maleficent is going to end. While certainly having the elements and plot points that harken back to the source material, this film has a story that is all its own. Maleficent is much more fleshed out here and given great emotional depth, helping you understand why she would lash out and curse an innocent baby. But what’s so great about this film is that we get to see Maleficent come to feel regret about what she did to Aurora when she gets to know her from afar, even going so far as to try and reverse her own curse. This woman’s journey brings me back to my point in the introduction, that things aren’t always so black and white. People are rarely born wholly evil or good. The environment and the people around us help shape who we are, what defines us are the decisions we make.
I simply can’t say enough glowing things about this film. I’ve been excited about this project since it was announced and that famous first picture of Jolie in character was released. It has become a popular trend in Hollywood to give infamous villains backstory and depth, and this film about one of Disney’s most iconic villains is well-worth the wait. Angelina Jolie is so flawless in this role, as though she were born to play it. Indeed one of the film’s producers Joe Roth was so passionate about having Jolie play the character that he would not have made the film if she had said no. And who can blame him when you see just how good she is?
The best part of the film, as I’ve stated, is getting to see Maleficent’s attitude towards Aurora change. One of my favorite moments in the film is when Maleficent interacts with little Aurora in the woods for the first time. As many people know, Jolie’s own daughter Vivienne played Aurora in this scene, as they needed a child that wasn’t afraid of Jolie in costume. Perhaps knowing that made the scene all the cuter and endearing to me, as the princess fearlessly interacting with the woman that cursed her with a smile on her face. Jolie also has great chemistry with Elle Fanning, which makes me wish the film were a bit longer so we could see the relationship between Maleficent and the older Aurora develop more.
Maleficent’s makeup is so wickedly gorgeous that it has me dying for higher cheekbones and the cash to burn so that I could buy MAC Cosmetics’ entire Maleficent Collection. Her horns looked so cool and not fake at all. I don’t know how they did it, but those bad boys looked like they were truly growing out of Jolie’s head! Each of her costumes were gorgeous, especially the famous one everyone knows from the original film. If you’re a fan of costume design, be sure to check out this article for a look into how Anna Sheppard, the film’s costume designer, created Maleficent’s and other characters’ looks.
The other actors in the film did great jobs as well. Sharlto Copley’s King Stefan was the true villain of this film, making me wish I could see more of this actor on the big screen. He was brilliant in District 9 and my absolute favorite thing about The A-Team, and in this film, his descent into madness is menacing and something to behold. Elle Fanning as Aurora is bubbly and bright, being quite the opposite of Maleficent in their scenes together. While I wish we could have gotten to know her a little better, this is Maleficent’s film. Had they tried to tell Aurora’s story in equal depth, the story would have gotten too muddled and lacked focus. Her three pixie “guardians” were a little irritating and my least favorite part, and their constant blundering and bickering made it a miracle that Aurora survived to sixteen, curse or not!
My favorite minor character is Maleficent’s companion Diaval, played by Sam Riley. He acts as Maleficent’s spy and at times, her Jiminy Cricket. Jolie and Riley have some great scenes together and reminded me of the relationship between Helen Mirren’s Prospera and Ben Whisaw’s Ariel in the 2010 version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Diaval has an equally cool look, the most intriguing features being these stylized scars along his face, neck, and chest. Expect some epic backstory fanfiction explaining how he got those! If you enjoy Sam Riley in this film, you should definitely check him out in Control, where he played Ian Curtis, the deeply troubled lead singer of Joy Division.
While this film made me ponder at Maleficent’s development, there was still the child-like part of me that was delighted by the magic shown. The special effects were fantastic, but with Robert Stromberg, the genius behind the production design of Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, as director, that’s to be expected. From the little creatures inhibiting the Moors to Maleficent’s thorny walls surrounding it, the world of Maleficent truly looked magical. The effects used on Maleficent’s own magic were pretty at times and wicked during others. The scene where she curses Aurora was pretty spectacular!
If you’re a fan of fairy tales or complicated female characters, I would highly recommend this film to you. For me, it is everything I love about going to the movies: a great story, an entertaining and engaging main character, and awesome special effects.
If you’ve already seen the movie, what were your favorite moments? Comment below and thank you for reading!
Author: Sarah Sue
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