In 1959 Disney released Sleeping Beauty, which told the story of princess Aurora who was cursed by an evil fairy to fall into a death like sleep that could only be broken by true loves kiss. Now Disney is given that evil fairy, Maleficent, a chance to plead her case, but will it make a difference?
The story follows Maleficent as she grows up and becomes the evil fairy that movie goers are familiar with. After falling in love with and being betrayed by a power hungry human, who stole her wings to become king, Maleficent creates a wall of thorns separating the humans and the fairy creatures. Years pass and Maleficent hears that the king has had a daughter, so she curses the princess to prick her finger on her 16th birthday and fall asleep until her true love comes and kisses her. The catch being the Maleficent has long since stopped believing in true love. The king sends the princess away to be guarded by dim witted good fairies for sixteen years and one day.
If you’ve seen the original film then you’ll know that Maleficent was a pretty fierce villain, so telling the original story from her point of view might have been too scary for children. Don’t worry, because the character has been changed in every way. Some justification for her action was needed or no one would root for her, but as a character Maleficent comes across as a victim rather than someone who should be feared. Maleficent is motivated solely by revenge and the problem with this is it that seems like a cop out and most of the good characters become idiots or ambitious back stabbers to facilitate the change. Why she became evil would have been a better story than why she became really pissed off at the king.
Visually the film is well done. It’s an interesting, under explored, world, but the dark colour palette makes it unappealing and could stop children wanting to see it or maybe cause parents to worry that the film is too dark for their kids. While there are some things that children might not understand, the story isn’t strong or mature enough to say the film is targeting adults. It’s obvious that Disney have tried to make Maleficent fit in with the darker fairytale remakes that have come out recently, but the movie suffers from not fully committing to an audience.
Apart from Maleficent, none of the characters were explored. The choice to focus solely on her seems strange since Aurora is much more likely to connect with little girls, who seem to be the most likely to enjoy this film. Every character exists only to give Maleficent cues to step in and take action, essentially robbing story points from other characters. An obvious example is Prince Phillip, who was literally turned into a puppet and could easily have been left out of the film.
The relationship between Maleficent and Aurora was one of the only enjoyable things about the movie, but it was hard not to feel as though it was plagiarised from Disney’s most recent hit Frozen. The full weight of the movie falls on Angelina Jolie, who does a great job, but she is surrounded by an undeserving cast who can’t seem to remember how to act. Maybe it’s because none of them had much to do.
What do you think? Did you like it better than me? What is your favourite fairytale? Let me know in the comments section below.