The Magic Kingdom folks have bundled together a mesmerizing live-action fantasy film in Maleficent, a reimagining of Disney’s own Sleeping Beauty animated film of 1959. Angelina Jolie masterfully pulls off the lead role as the powerful fairy princess gone bad — bent on horrific revenge against the man who wronged her.
Although elements of this film seem borrowed from other productions (Wicked and Oz the Great and Powerful), the formula is a winning one and is executed almost flawlessly, with evocative performances and brisk pacing. Angelina is unmatched for communicating great chasms of angst and hurt with a single look.
The missteps, fortunately, are few and brief. The most peculiar and regrettable transgression is the film’s theme regarding man’s blind destruction of his world and all living on it. While clearly intended as a warning against allowing greed to overwhelm our sensibilities, the theme simply delivers the message that all humans are corrupt and evil at heart. Only the enchanted denizens of Maleficent’s moors are pure of heart and soul, and therefore targeted by jealous humans.
The only good human in the story is the beautiful Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) — and she is only good because she possesses magical blessings (such as perfect beauty and happiness in all things). Absent such magical attributes, all other humans live as they were created: as damned, dirty apes certain to defile and destroy the entire world if left unchecked.
Fortunately, a powerful dark fairy is on hand to slay and conquer the humans as necessary and save the planet for all the good souls in it. Unfortunately, the only good souls in that world are make-believe or animals.
That indeed is a peculiar message for a family film, especially a Disney film, but is subtle enough to be missed by most. The story itself is what resonates with viewers, and it plays well for all but the youngest ages. It plays well enough in fact for the heart-tugging Maleficent to become a classic in the Disney galaxy of family films.
Check out the official trailer at