Who was Maleifcent and why should we care? Why did she hate the royal family? Why was she not invited to the christening for Aurora? And why did she curse the baby? In Disney’s revamping Sleeping Beauty they create a backstory for Maleifcent in which they tell where she came from, who she was as a child, and why ultimately she cursed Aurora.
In the beginning Maleifcent lives in a faery kingdom (called the Moors) that is separate from the Kingdom of men, in which they live apart from humanity in peace and harmony. However, into this kingdom comes a young boy named Stephan, Michael Higgins, who befriends Young Maleifcent, Isobelle Molloy. Stephan however, is ambitious and uses Maleifcent to achieve his own ends, and thus gain control over the kingdom. How this happens, is cruel and sets up the pretext for Maleifcent’s anger, hatred and ultimate revenge.
While the movie is visually stunning, it is hampered by the fact that it seeks to redeem a great villainess. Maleifcent was scary in the first film because we did not know who she was, or why she hated the royal family. It was this level of ambiguity which created a cloud of unpredictability that all great villains have.
Yet in “Maleficent” this cloud of unpredictability is removed and in their attempts to redeem her, they undermined the three faeries. In the original when they give their gifts during the christening, the third gift is interrupted, by Maleifcent, yet the third faery, Flora, bestows her gift that she shall not die, but shall lie in sleep. In this film, it is not one of the faeries that rewrites the curse, but Maleficent herself.
“Maleifcent” is a tale of redemption rife with flaws. The Trees in the Moors look like rejects from “Lord of the Rings”. King Stephan, Sharlto Copley, is unlikable and cruel and Aurora is so artless, she rarely questions anything.
Finally one glaring fault is the overuse of narration. This makes it seem longer than it is, and drags the entire production down with it. This is sad, because we want to like this film, if only for the questions it purports to answer, but at every turn, we are disappointed with the answers that ensue.