To quote Wicked, “Are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them? ”. Wicked was the first medium I know that looked at a famous story like The Wizard of Oz and reexamined the tale from a different point of view, mainly the villains to show that the wicked witch was not a bad guy, just a misunderstood human. I saw this as an interesting change in story that can unveil one-dimensional villains as more then bullies or devils. It even asks who the real villain of the story is. This new twist excited me…for a while.
Frozen took the same stance with The Snow Queen as did other fairy tale movies like Hoodwinked, Happily N’ever After and Mirror, Mirror. The examination of villains as good guys has become a cliché that I’m growing somewhat sick of. I don’t think it’s a bad idea, but the people that try and reexamine the bad guys tend to change the original story to such an extent that it’s no longer the classic fairy tale or they make the motivations and conventions illogical to the personality of the character. Sleeping Beauty now has the chance to show a new side in Maleficent.
The movie stars by showing us a land that has two kingdoms; one for the humans and one for the Moors (some term for magical folk). It looks promising when we get a glimpse at a young Maleficent, a good fairy who comes across a young boy named Stefan where it’s revealed that there’s some hatred between fairies and humans. We cut to some time later when Stefan becomes heir to the throne by cutting off the wings of Maleficent and straining the relationship between magical creatures and humans more when she decides to use her powers for darkness.
As revenge for steeling her wings, Maleficent (played by Angelina Jolie) goes to the christening of Aurora and delivers a curse-gift, proclaiming that by touching the needle on the spindle on her sixteenth birthday, the child will fall into a death-like sleep. King Stefan (played by Sharlto Copley) orders every spindle burned and that three fairies, Knotgrass, Thistlewit, and Flittle, to take Aurora into the woods to raise her. Maleficent keeps a close eye on the child, sort of becoming an accidental mother to Aurora when the three fairies prove to be incompetent. At sixteen, Aurora (played by Elle Fanning) believes Maleficent to be her fairy godmother (this got a laugh out of me) and the mistress of evil seems to be having second thoughts about the curse.
I’ll admit that I curious about Maleficent, as the original villain from Sleeping Beauty had given me nightmare for a while. While she’s not as scary, Angelina Jolie is an ideal choice. She has the right face and keeps her cool attitude in check while balancing out being evil and being a mother. Elle Fanning also does well enough with what she’s given, and the poor screenplay only has her smile and feed deer. Did I say bad? The story here strays too far from the Sleeping Beauty story to be considered part of the story.
Maleficent follows the route of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and puts the focus on it’s CGI environment. The result is similar with many of the effects ranging from really good to obviously phony. The movie simply assumes that no one will tell the difference from real and computer generated. In fact, half the time, I thought I was watching a cut scene from a video game then an actual movie. How about a little combination of animatronics?
Taking the eye candy CGI out of the picture, how’s the full story? Though it’s not the worst, this is just a bland fairy tale that’s meant for children only (or those just looking for a fairy tale), giving pretty imagery and uninteresting characters. Why couldn’t Maleficent had focused on the political aspects of the fairy and human kingdoms. Had it gone with that route, we might have gotten material that rivals Game of Thrones. But as it is, this is a popcorn fantasy only for those that aren’t looking for anything meaty.
I’ll give this two Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty out of five. It didn’t do me any bit except for some nice imagery, but I’m sure there is a large audience that will make this a hit. I’ll stick with Sleeping Beauty myself, thank you.