Maleficent is as truly malevolent and magnificent as her name suggests. However, Disney’s spin on Sleeping Beauty’s infamous antihero showcases Maleficent in a new light—as a character who is vulnerable and thoughtful, and, believe it or not, has feelings, too.
Growing up in the magical land of The Moors, far from the kingdom, the young fairy Maleficent grew up surrounded by whimsy and sunshine. She was admired by her fellow enchanted creatures and was welcomed with a smile anywhere she flew. One fateful day, a young boy named Stefan appears at the gate that separates the kingdom from The Moors, to much of the magical world’s dismay. A compassionate Maleficent approaches the boy and guides him back to his kingdom, convincing her kinfolk that he is not to be feared. Stefan (Sharlto Copley) continues to visit Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) over time and a friendship blossoms between the two. As life goes, years pass and the once-sturdy relationship between the two begins to dwindle. Stefan’s king is beset with old age and starts looking for a worthy man to take up his place on the throne. King Henry’s one desire is this: he wishes to possess The Moors and destroy its protector, Maleficent. Stefan, witnessing the King’s defeat in a battle against The Moors, takes it upon himself to avenge his King, terminating his friendship with Maleficent forever. In a moment of weakness in his lust for power to impress King Henry, Stefan steals Maleficent’s wings, leaving her weak and dismantled. Now the new king, Stefan throws a celebration for his first child, a daughter named Aurora (Elle Fanning), which Maleficent, vengeful and full of hate, disrupts to bestow a gift. What comes next is the unfolding of Princess Aurora’s tale, with interesting plot twists sprinkled throughout. That’s all I’m going to tell you!
Read more about Angelina Jolie>
What we loved
I was concerned that focusing on the life of a heinous villain would result in a film too frightening for children, but I was left pleasantly surprised. Director Robert Stromberg’s Maleficent was quite amicable and lovely most of the time—nothing like the iconic wicked doppelganger that existed in the original Sleeping Beauty. And Angelina? That woman set the cameras ablaze with her performance. She is stern, she is sarcastic, she is tender, she is kind, and even where the script falls short, her facial expressions speak volumes. In this film, Maleficent’s character is one who makes every effort to remain malicious and resentful towards King Stefan’s daughter, and yet, cannot manage it. She soon begins to care for Aurora as she witnesses the child grow up in the household of the three good fairies. In this way, we witness a side of Maleficent we would have never presumed existed. Aurora even comes to call her “fairy godmother.”
What we didn’t like
There are many holes in the storyline that are left gaping open and never receive additional explanation. We are left to accept the drastic changes to the familiar plot without being given the background knowledge so that we may understand the why and the how. The script floundered in places and many scenes were comprised mostly of piercing gazes instead of clarifying dialogue. The special effects were amusing, but the CGI characters were tepid at best.
Parental advisory (potential spoilers)
There is nothing to fear, parents. In first place winning The Creepiest Award is the enormous thorny wall that Maleficent erects around her beloved Moorish lands. In second place is King Stefan who is a miserable old man who likes to order people around. And third is the fire-breathing dragon, who really only makes a prolonged cameo appearance. Notable mention: Maleficent turns her crow sidekick into a vicious wolf, but after returning to his original feathered state, his sense of humour puts the audience at ease. I might suggest that if your kids are younger than about six or seven, these scenes may be a little too startling.
PG—Parental guidance is suggested
The story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears comes to mind as I figure out how to wrap this up. The fear factor was slight, for the most part. The cheesy special effects abound, but Angelina’s performance was just right. The kids will have fun exploring this enchanted realm and enjoy the film. However, there is a possibility that the adults might not.
Maleficent hits North American theatres on Friday, May 30, 2014. Watch the trailer here!
Emily Piccinin is an Assistant Editor at Today’s Parent. She enjoys reading books and watching movies just as much as she enjoys writing about them. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @empeachyy.