Director: Robert Stromberg.
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple.
Running Time: 97 minutes.
Synopsis: The classic tale of Sleeping Beauty gets a new twist as we see the events from ‘evil’ fairy Maleficent’s (Jolie) point of view.
MALEFICENT came into the world off of the back of the success of television show Once Upon A Time, which gave viewers a deeper insight into Snow White’s evil Queen Regina – making her a tragic victim of circumstance. MALEFICENT showcases a similar narrative, with the young Maleficent the light and soul of the Fairy Kingdom. A kind creature, she befriends human boy Stefan, an orphaned farmer, looking past the fact that their Kingdoms are sworn enemies. The pair inevitably grow apart as they grow older and Maleficent finds herself the victim of a broken heart which distorts her perception of the world and those around her. Paying adage to the saying ‘beware a woman scorned’, Maleficent curses Stefan’s young daughter Aurora.
Jolie looks magnificent as Maleficent, her already jagged cheek-bones enhanced to razor-points, making her look both ethereal and sinister at once. Her wings are indeed beautiful and powerful with a battle towards the start showcasing their brutal force. They also feature for longer than some viewers might anticipate which makes it all the more worse when she is stripped of them.
Had Jolie not been cast it’s not certain that there would be quite so much of a buzz around this film or that an audience could empathise with the character in the same way. In many ways it feels like a part that Jolie was born to play, with her being known for both her positive charitable efforts and her wild-child eccentricities. An accomplished Oscar winning actress, Jolie pumps pathos and venom into the character in equal measures making it clear that even when she is bad, you know why. Surprisingly there is also a great deal of humour within the film, most of it coming from Maleficent’s interactions with young Aurora.
Given that the name of the film is MALEFICENT Elle Fanning’s Aurora, aka Sleeping Beauty, doesn’t really get much scope to grow, and is rather 2-dimensional, all she really does is run around looking happy. This is no slight on the younger Fanning’s acting, it’s just a warning to those Sleeping Beauty fanatics out there that she’s more of a supporting character than a main. Sam Riley is also left on the side lines a little as Maleficent’s chief ‘henchman’; although not heavily featured, he is not your typical Disney butt-kissing minion, and isn’t afraid to put his mistress in her place when she needs it.
The film is of course a fantasy tale and in this day and age that means only one thing, CGI. The film is saturated with the stuff, some of it is stunning whilst other parts leave something to be desired – the three fairy protectors being the main casualties. In their human-form they are fine, if not very HOCUS POCUS like – the determined old leader, the kooky one and the young airhead, however in their fairy-form their features have been caricatured and look more than a little odd.
The first in what is looking to be a long line of Disney fairy tales brought to the live-action stage, MALEFICENT manages to elicit sympathy for one of it’s most famous villains, and women around the world will feel a certain kinship to the creature who gave her heart to the wrong man. Refreshingly the story also has a rather different spin on the ‘true loves kiss’ fairy tale staple.
Though on paper it is not exactly the sort of children’s film you’d expect, what with the story focusing on the villain, it does show children that there are two sides to every story. It may however insight some school-yard debates about who is better, Sleeping Beauty or the misunderstood Maleficent.
(4 / 5) MALEFICENT is in cinemas nationwide from today.