Director: Robert Stromberg
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, and Sam Riley
From: Walt Disney Pictures
By: Monte Yazzie (www.TheCodaFilms.com)
The 1959 Disney animated classic “Sleeping Beauty” is given a makeover with a new leading lady, the villainous Maleficent. The elements from the original film are still well intact but Director Robert Stromberg, a former production designer, guides his story on the sturdy shoulders of Angelina Jolie and the striking imagery of her character. While the film is filled with production allusions to the original, the special effects become more distracting than accommodating and the narrative has trouble finding the proper direction for such a captivating character.
Maleficent begins the story as a young girl who lives, and flies above, an enchanted land. She encounters a human boy named Stefan who tries to steal a valuable stone from the forbidden territory, though Maleficent shows charity towards him. A friendship develops between them and, after a movement in time, romance blossoms. However, Stefan has aspirations of making his own life in the human world where Maleficent isn’t accepted. More time passes and Stefan has moved into a position helping the king, who desires nothing more than taking Maleficent’s home for his own. Stefan, realizing opportunity, betrays Maleficent by cutting her wings off. Maleficent turns to darkness, hiding for some time until she hears word that the new king, Stefan, has had a child named Aurora.
Angelina Jolie makes an impressive villain. Her already beautiful features are modified with a stunning crown of horns and prominently framed wings, the attractive design makes some of the more mundane moments of the film watchable. The style incorporated into the wardrobe of the character is also finely rendered, while her mischievous grin and darkly enchanting voice only add to the commanding presence of her character. However, it’s during the more quiet moments between Fanning’s Aurora when Jolie’s character becomes more than just a striking image. The rest of the cast is merely playing catch-up with Jolie who commands nearly every scene.
The story is familiar though it begins with interesting promise. Introducing Maleficent as a compassionate and caring young fairy who is the protector of the moors, an overly computer generated world with all manner of glowing and murky creatures, and then immediately follow it with a swift love story that ends in betrayal and heartbreak gives the title character a fitting backstory. Maleficent survives the deception, albeit with retaliation directed at the offspring of her deceiver, and her coldness soon changes into something different over the course of Princess Aurora’s life. Unfortunately, once the familiar elements from the original story are presented, the film stumbles into a waiting game of expected developments. While Maleficent watches the vessel of her curse grow into a kind hearted young woman the retelling of the story makes a slight turn with elements that illustrate the significance of forgiveness, maternal love, and feminine confidence. Diversion returns to accustomed strides as the inevitable confrontation between Maleficent and the king takes priority in an action display of tedious visuals.
While “Maleficent” may not deviate from the original tale or delve deeper into the malevolence insinuated in her name, it does offer a new representation of a character that was otherwise unredeemable. Jolie is excellent in the lead, which makes it all the more frustrating that the script didn’t offer more to work with. Still, “Maleficent” even with its faults will undoubtedly find admiration from the Disney fans.
2.50 out of 5.00