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Love and betrayal in Disney's 'Maleficent'

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Maleficent (movie)

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They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but Angelina Jolie’s reincarnation of the self-proclaimed mistress of all evil, Maleficent, paints this proverb in an entirely new light. Woven together from threads of both Disney and Perrault’s versions of the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty”, “Maleficent” brings to life one of Disney’s most malevolent and perhaps misunderstood villains in a story steeped as much in redemption as it is in revenge.

Love is a powerful theme in most fairy tales but for “Maleficent”, love is a catalyst that is rooted in both good and evil. As a child, Maleficent finds her true love in Stefan, a boy who wanders into the fairy’s realm from a neighboring kingdom. Although they are from two very different worlds (she as a fairy and he as a mortal child) Maleficent allows her feelings for Stefan to grow and he soon wins her heart. Their love is shattered, however, when Stefan betrays Maleficent by taking what is most precious to her in order to satisfy his own selfish ambitions – namely to be crowned the new king. His betrayal marks the beginning of Maleficent’s fall into darkness and she wreaks her vengeance on him by robbing Stefan of what is most precious to him: his daughter, Aurora.

While Stefan’s betrayal of her is the catalyst which caused Maleficent to become evil, it is ironically her love for Aurora that ultimately heals the dark fairy. In the beginning Maleficent has a reluctant affection for the infant princess, watching over her from the shadows while Aurora grows up in the care of the three “good fairies”. Although she is determined to maintain her distance from Aurora both physically and emotionally (calling her Beastie), her frozen heart begins to soften as her bond with Aurora grows stronger and she becomes almost a mother-like figure to the beautiful princess. In the end, Maleficent’s love for Aurora is not only what saved Aurora from her fatal curse but it is also what allowed Maleficent’s own heart to be restored.

“Maleficent” is a creatively done (albeit considerably darker) interpretation of the classic fairy tale. The casting is good overall, but Angelina Jolie shines as Maleficent, bringing to life the self-proclaimed Mistress of all Evil in a way that is not only unique but believable. While not your typical happily-ever-after Disney film, it is still a worthy example of Disney storytelling at its best.

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