Disney’s “Maleficent” took in an estimated $70 million this past weekend as it opened nationwide. With the success of other such films and a new craze to see classic fairy tales from other points of view, Disney tackles their own classic “Sleeping Beauty” as audiences see what “really” happened.
Robert Stromberg, best known for his visual effects work on movies such as “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End”, “The Hunger Games”, and “Life of Pi”, makes his directorial debut. His mastery of visual effects seeps into the creation and execution of this movie. Linda Woolverton wrote the screenplay for this movie and is best known for “The Lion King” and “Alice in Wonderland” (2010). The interesting mix of both classic and modern storytelling for Woolverton shines in this reimagined new movie. She is able create the same feelings that a classic animated fairy tale gives yet presents it in a darker, live action setting. Together Woolverton and Stromberg created a modern classic fairy tale a bit dark, edgy yet still with the same “happily ever after” feeling.
(SPOILER ALERT: Discussion of plot, possible spoilers below)
Angelia Jolie stars as Maleficent, the evil, mischievous villain from "Sleeping Beauty". Jolie has her work cut out for her taking on such an iconic villain, yet all elements of this movie come together to allow her to create a completely new character unlike any audiences have seen. With a classic story, audiences already have an idea what they should expect yet the real success of such a movie as this are the surprises and twists.
The story starts in typical fairy tale fashion a story of two neighboring territories, one human with a beautiful castle and the other The Moors, which has inhabitants of all kinds of fantastical creatures and beings. Maleficent (Jolie) is the most powerful of the faeries and one day meets a young boy, Stefan, who has stolen something. She convinces him to return what he has stolen and the two become fast friends and a bit “more”. Stefan grows up and gives himself to his human desires such as greed and success and the pair drifts apart.
As she ages, Maleficent becomes a protector of The Moors to keep the neighboring human territory at bay. Stefan works in the castle near the King and when the King is defeated in battle by Maleficent, he calls for her death. Stefan, using his previous relationship with her, tricks her into trusting him. He drugs her and despite not being able to kill her, he takes her wings. Maleficent is heartbroken and becomes what audiences have seen in the classic tale, yet that was just where it all began.
Stefan (Sharlto Copley) goes on to become King and when he and his queen are presenting their first born, Maleficent takes her chance to get her revenge. Despite three fairies there to offer blessing on the child, the hate that Maleficent feels for her betrayal cannot be subdued. She curses the child that on her 16th birthday she will prick her finger on a spindle wheel and go into a deathlike sleep for the rest of her life.
The King fearful of the curse decides to destroy all spindle wheels and hide her away until the day after her 16th birthday. Maleficent originally despises Aurora (Elle Fanning), or “beastie”, as she often refers to her yet as the two begin to interact, she begins to regret her curse on the child. As Maleficent and Aurora grow to know and understand one another, the heart of the movie truly gets revealed. Despite the hate and “evil” character that Jolie portrays, the tenderness, even in harsh moments, is what gives the audience a warm feeling. Fanning and Jolie complement each other on screen and their openness and vulnerability is what will draw audiences into their performances.
Audiences might find it a bit odd that Disney is taking on their own fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty” with this look from a different perspective. This movie truly speaks to the phase, “Evil isn’t born, it’s made.” Maleficent acts and reacts from the events in her life and in the end, even she realizes that life isn’t about destroying those who have wronged you but it’s about getting on with your life after such events. Jolie’s performance will bring tears to your eyes as you watch her turn from scorned and heartbroken villain to a remorseful, tenderhearted “fairy godmother”, as Aurora often refers to her before knowing the truth.
Although at times this movie does lack for originality, one of the plot “twists” seems to be taken from the TV series “Once Upon a Time” with the interruptions of “true love’s kiss”, yet the ability for Jolie to completely embody Maleficent is really, what makes this movie succeed. It seems that no matter what point of view Disney seems to look at life whether it be from the villain or the hero’s perspective, they can truly find the good in anyone. This movie is just another reminder of how nice life would be if seen from the eyes of a Disney movie.