Maleficent, Disney’s most recent live-action film, tells a reimagined story of a classic tale. It allows a different point of view to be expressed, and by a different breed of character: The villain. But Maleficent the character isn’t completely the villain one would expect her to be. Instead, there’s a backstory that allows viewers to identify the root of the darkened nature of what they initially see on the outside. Maleficent affords viewers the opportunity to revisit the tales they were told about others, and perhaps see things from a different perspective. Simply put, it grants the viewer the power of understanding.
That understanding wouldn’t be possible without the cast of characters, all of which play an integral role in Maleficent’s character arc. Stefan (Michael Higgins/Sharlto Copley) shapes who Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) becomes. Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) further shapes Maleficent into who she ultimately ends up being. Diaval (Sam Riley), Maleficent’s raven servant, helps her along the way in seeing the true nature of her journey. The supporting cast of characters (Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville as Knotgrass, Thistlewit, and Flittle respectively) add a nice humorous flavor to a film that is highly about growth and understanding.
The growth and understanding is guided by the narrative that runs throughout the film. It adds a certain dynamic to Maleficent, acting as a constant reminder to the viewer that there is a story being told. The tone of the narrator is crucial to understanding exactly who Maleficent is and was. Maleficent shows a different side to the original character in Sleeping Beauty (of which this film is obviously based off of). The character is not fully evil, but not entirely good. Jolie straddles that moral ambiguity excellently with her icy stare that holds deep rooted emotion within. Being indulged with the backstory, the viewers see that stare and feel exactly what Maleficent is feeling. That is why she cannot be classified as good or evil.
That inability to see good or evil is perhaps an excellent representation of the human psyche. Everybody has their vices, but may also have equal good within. The good vs. evil theme is prevalent in Maleficent, alongside other subliminal topics. The destruction brought upon by greed plays a role, as does a slight war between man and nature. Regret also plays a huge part in the film, as well as seeking to right a wrong. All of this can be likened to the happenings of today’s society, both within singular individuals, or society as a whole. Being able to take that connection away from Maleficent and reflect on it makes it a film worth seeing.
Maleficent isn’t just a remake of Disney’s animated film Sleeping Beauty; it’s a reimagined film that tells the tale of a character who nobody would have really wanted to give a chance to simply because she was seen as a villain. But walking away from this film may grant viewers the ability to give those they see as bad in real life a chance to tell their tales. Perhaps there is a way to see that there is good in the bad. Maleficent is a film that allows that to be done.
Final grade? A-