Directed by: Robert Stromberg
There is a subset of “alternate histories” that purportedly tell the “other” side of well-known tales. Personally we first encountered this genre in 1977 when we read Walter Wagers, hilarious My Side By King Kong. That tale was ostensibly the giant Gorilla’s version of what really occurred in the 1933 Fay Wray cinematic vehicle. Perhaps the most famous instance of this type of tale is the Broadway play, Wicked (which was most recently incarnated last year as Oz the Great and Powerful. Which told us the backstories of Elphaba, the so-called Wiced Witch of the West (and why she wasn’t the villain of the piece) and Oz (who wasn’t always so great or powerful) respectively. Well, with Maleficent, we learn that perhaps the “Wicked Witch” wasn’t nearly so wicked as were initially lead to believe.
With this, the “untold story” of Disney’s most iconic villain we are reintroduced to the major players of the classic Disney film. As the story starts, we meet a young, beautiful, pure-hearted woman with stunning black wings, named Maleficent (her actual name from the ’59 film). Well, she has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, where she meets and befriends a young man and first loses her heart to him, then him to the human world. Eventually an invading army of humans from the neighboring kingdom threatens the harmony of both lands by attempting an invasion. Maleficent (Jolie) rises to the defense of her homeland and becomes her land’s fiercest protector; however she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal – an act that turns her pure heart into the most unyielding stone.
Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces an epic battle with the king of the humans (Stefan (Sharlto Copley), her old paramour) and, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora (Fanning). To protect her, King Stefan sends her away in the watchful eyes of three fairies. However, as the child grows, Maleficent oversees her care, and soon comes to realize that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom – and to Maleficent’s true happiness as well.
As with the previously-mentioned “alternate histories” this tale presents a fundamentally different view of what we “know” occurred, and thus gives us a deeper insight into how the past might have actually unfolded. (A truly mind-altering experience if we layer this type of thinking on real-world events that occur in front of us on TV, as told to us as “true” by “newscasters”). The story is moving, involving, and very well done. The CGI adds to (instead of distracts from) the story as it unfolds, and proves that Jolie is one of the few women with Marquee-recognition that can open a blockbuster film.
Still, the lesson is there if you are willing to see it: History is told by the winners.
Robert j. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.