Maleficent (2014) Directed by Robert Stromberg. Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley. IMDB says: “A vindictive fairy is driven to curse an infant princess only to realize the child may be the only one who can restore peace.”
Watching Sleeping Beauty as a young child, I was pretty damn scared by Maleficent, the evil fairy who curses a baby princess simply because she wasn’t invited to her christening party. The character design was sharp and wicked, her voice theatrical but chilling, and the green aura freakish. In capturing this character in a live action version, Maleficent does a fantastic job in parts, but softens out her evil edges far too much to be effecting.
Since seeing the first promo image of Angelina Jolie in the Maleficent get up, it was obvious that this casting worked very well. Jolie does an excellent job handling the evil sides of the character, giving wonderfully hammy monologues when necessary and constantly scowling. The problems arise with the treatment of this Disney villain.
Maleficent starts with a strong first act, telling the story of a young fairy (played very well by newcomer Isobelle Molloy) who’s joyful and protective of her land, which is filled with other fanciful creatures. It resides just beyond the reach of a kingdom inhabited by humans who do not trust them despite how truly harmless they are. She meets a young peasant named Stefan and they grow up adoring each other. Once they reach adulthood, he turns her from the lovely, peaceful fairy to the evil villain we’re familiar with through a cruel act. I knew that they were going to show another side to the villain and this was a perfect set up to do so. It immediately colored her future actions in a believable and sad way.
From here, it gets back into the tale from the 1959 Disney version, with the curse, burning of the spindles, and hiding the princess in the woods to be looked after by three good fairies (who really don’t do much of note in this movie). All is well and good up to this point, but where the story takes you from here was somewhat of a let down.
In an attempt to bring compassion to this character, Maleficent makes her too sympathetic, not nearly evil enough, and just downright neutered when it comes down to it. From a trailer showing this wicked character, I was hoping for a more fun villain. There’s also the slight issue that, while Elle Fanning is always quite good, Aurora does nothing in this movie but smile and laugh. It’s not her movie so I can forgive it, but it just made it painfully obvious that this script was not very thought out.
They got so far as to show a multidimensional character, but not far enough to explore its potential. This movie is painfully average for interesting character they had to play and the stellar casting of Jolie. Worth the watch, but no real acclaim.