Sleeping Beauty has always been one of my favorite Disney movies. Ever since I was a young kid, I loved the music, the characters, and especially the epic battle at the end. Because of this, Maleficent has always been one of my favorite villains of all time. I loved the mystery behind her, and how she was so pissed that she wasn’t invited to an infant’s birthday party that she set a curse upon the child. She was pure evil, and once it was revealed that she had the ability to transform into a dragon, I was completely sold.
Because of the love that I have for the original film, I was interested to see this new release dedicated entirely to my favorite horned enchantress. However, I soon found out that the Maleficent in this film isn’t quite as threatening as the sorceress in the original.
Maleficent stars Angelina Jolie as our title character, who lives in a magical forest world surrounded by fantasy creatures. We learn that Maleficent isn’t quite a human, put rather a fairy living in this forest, and that the creatures of this realm and the humans nearby have never quite gotten along. Maleficent befriends a young boy named Stefan, and the two have an innocent puppy love for awhile. Years later, Maleficent is in charge of the forest’s defenses, and defeats the human king’s forces when the his army attempts an assault. When Stefen learns that he can become king by slaying Maleficent, he cuts off her wings to present them to the current dying king in an attempt to fool him into thinking that he had killed the fairy. Maleficent becomes mad with rage at his betrayal, and sets a curse upon King Stefan’s newborn infant. The rest of the story continues with this twist on Sleeping Beauty from Maleficent’s perspective, changing both minor and major plot points along the way.
I should start off this review by saying that I was wholly impressed with the world that was created in this film. The fantasy realm in which Maleficent dwells could almost go toe-to-toe with Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle-Earth with its impressive rock formations and creative creatures. The forest’s soldiers, made of what look like vines, leaves and trees, had very creative designs, and I was fascinated by their animation. The visuals in the film were great, and the smooth direction allowed the audience to get a good look at this world. I was wholly drawn into every frame that showed the fantasy realm that the filmmakers had created, and I appreciated the artists’ attention to detail throughout the film.
It is disappointing that such an elaborate world was paired with such a dull plot. Even though Jolie did a great job with the material that she was given, I just didn’t like this version of Maleficent that I was supposed to empathize with. Sure, she lost her wings, but I don’t think that justifies cursing an infant to die. The other characters in the film were rather uninteresting, especially Aurora and Prince Philip, the latter of whom was simply a means to the end for Aurora to marry, and not nearly as heroic as the prince in the Disney classic. King Stefan, played by Sharlto Copley, wasn’t very interesting, either, which was disappointing, since he is such a talented actor. Add to this the fact that the film used just about every “true love” cliché possible, and you have just another children’s film that started off with good intentions and ended up a mess.
On top of all of this, I just couldn’t help but think about how much darker the original animated feature was in comparison to this film. Maleficent as a protagonist who we are supposed to relate to just isn’t as interesting as the version that we were given in the Disney classic. She seems toned down for the children in the audience, even though the original actually has an even lighter “G” rating. And yes, there is a dragon in this film, but it’s nowhere near as impressive as the wyrm that we are treated to in the classic. I personally wouldn’t want to see this film again, but I will say that if you’re looking for a good night out with the family, the world presented here will be sure to entertain your children’s imaginations, and perhaps your own, as well. Just be sure to show your kids the 1959 version when you get home.