This review has spoilers
Heroine. Protector. Bewitching. So much can be said about Disney’s character Maleficent in the new film by the same name. Villainous? Hardly. That quality has been nearly stripped from the character, as the film shows Maleficent as a victim with an ax to grind, eventually doing anything in her power to save the very child she sought to destroy.
We first see a young Maleficent (Isobelle Molloy) as a pixie in the Moors. There is no sign of evil here, everything is beautiful and blissful. Pixies and humans coexist but do not have contact. That changes when a thief named Stefan (Michael Higgins young, then Sharito Copley later) shows up, and he and Maleficent strike up a strong friendship, eventually leading to deeper feelings.
Their friendship doesn’t last forever, though, as an elder king wants Maleficent killed. The king will bestow his crown on the man who completes the mission. Stefan knows where he can find Maleficent, and after a beautiful night of reminiscing with his former love, gives her a drink that puts her to sleep. Originally planning to kill her, he instead strips Maleficent of her wings, in a disturbing violation of her body.
Stefan of course becomes king, and he and his wife bear a child: Aurora. During the infant’s christening, an uninvited Maleficent crashes the event. She puts a curse on the young child, that Aurora will prick her finger on a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday and fall into a deep sleep. Only “True Love’s Kiss” can awaken her (if I never hear that phrase in a movie again, I will be very happy).
Stefan sends Aurora into the woods with three bumbling fairies, charged to take care of her until her 16th birthday. Fortunately, it appears that Maleficent has nothing else to do except look gorgeous and stalk Aurora, because she is the only one protecting the child – like a surrogate mom. The three fairies are idiots for comic relief, given human form and not enough comedy material to work with. I didn’t laugh at all during their scenes, though I know they were meant to be funny.
One of the few truly touching moments in the film comes in the form of Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, playing a young Aurora. She is absolutely adorable with her mom, not needing to really act – but it comes across as a real and funny scene. I could watch it again and again.
Maleficent saves Aurora from harm many times through the years, and eventually the teenaged Aurora (Elle Fanning) is reaching her 16th birthday. Unfortunately, Maleficent has many powers, but for some reason she cannot revoke the curse; neither can she make herself fly. I found that actually very curious, considering everything else she has done (including turning her raven friend Diaval, played by Sam Riley, into every animal known to man). Another curiousity, for me, is that Maleficent seems to stop aging once Angelina Jolie takes over. Maleficent begins as a child, turns into a teenager, and then we see the evil Stefan as he grows older and scraggly – but Maleficent stays gorgeous with her high cheekbones and sparkling green eyes.
Prince Phillip (Brenton Thwaites) appears in the film, but doesn’t have much to do except to look cute for Aurora. In turn, Elle Fanning (usually a wonderful actress) really has little to work with except to smile. In one unintentionally funny (to me) scene, she expresses fear upon meeting Prince Phillip. Up until then, she hasn’t shown fear at meeting anyone, including Maleficent herself.
The villain in the film is not Maleficent, and she isn’t the one who becomes a dragon either. I did find the film a bit on the dull side at times, never quite finding it’s footing. Angelina Jolie did her job of playing the character that was written, but Sharito Copley was mostly annoying.
One of my favorite aspects of the film is that it runs just over 90 minutes. Most movies these days try to throw everything in but the kitchen sink to pad time, but Maleficent already feels longer than it is.
Don’t expect to recognize the title character. I personally am not big into the retelling of Disney characters, I like them to stay “on model” to what I’m used to. This isn’t a film for me. The movie is not graphically violent in the way The Lone Ranger was, but there are scenes that children might find scary. And if they don’t find it scary, they might find the film boring. It isn’t particularly a film for young children.
Jeff enjoyed Maleficent more than I did. The grade below is from me. Jeff would give it a B.
Mousesteps Grade: B-
U.S. Release date: May 30, 2014
Running time: 97 min.
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville
Director: Robert Stromberg
Producer: Joe Roth
Executive Producers: Angelina Jolie, Michael Vieira, Don Hahn, Palak Patel, Matt Smith, Sarah Bradshaw
Screenplay by: Linda Woolverton