It wasn’t quite malicious enough for me. You see the horns, the thorny collars, and the love of all things black and you think eviiiiiiiil. I was a little disappointed. It feels weird to say “Maleficent was too nice.” It’s like wishing Aurora was just a touch more Goth. The rest of the movie, however, lives up to its promise of showing you a side of the Sleeping Beauty story that is both complementary to the original animated Disney film, and a total twist on the classic.
Maleficent is a fairy. A really tall fairy who looks like the offspring of Hawkgirl and Diablo. The ageless Angelina Jolie owns this role and pours hate, revenge, hypnotic stares, and the kind of joy only a child on a snow day can understand, into her character. The film tells the ‘untold’ side of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale: the side where Maleficent had a darn good reason for being a stone cold bitch, and was completely justified in cursing the sweetest girl the kingdom has ever seen into a death-like sleep. The biggest difference between this Maleficent and the one I modeled my dorm room after is that this Maleficent actually has a heart. Whether purposefully or not, Maleficent’s constant watch over Aurora (Elle Fanning) leads to the same kind of emotional attachment one might have with an imaginary friend.
Many original features of Disney’s animated Sleeping Beauty are still present in Maleficent. Mostly, I think, just for novelty’s sake. When the fairies grant baby Aurora her gifts, a slight change is made from the blue fairy’s “gift of song” to the “gift of joy”. I feel like this one backfired on the filmmakers. Poor Elle Fanning does the best she can with a character who is meant to be constantly high on life. Amazingly, she manages to work a little shock, fear, and rebelliousness into her character’s basic-cable emotional range. As a baby, however, Aurora sure tends to cry a lot for someone who should “always be joyful.”
One of the few things which cheers her up is Maleficent’s crow. In the animated movie the crow is a crow. In Maleficent he’s a cunning, loyal, human servant. Diaval (Sam Riley) may just be there to give Maleficent someone to talk to, but his character is surprisingly charming and a total asset to the film.
The three little fairies, meanwhile, seemed only to be present because you can’t have a fairy tale without fairies. There are a few Grimms who might disagree, but whatever, Disney, you have the reigns. Sleeping Beauty’s three gentle fairies are a little less motherly and a little more painfully irritating. Like gerbils stuck in a megaphone. For a king with countless advisors, was there no one to point out that it may not be the best idea to put a newborn in the care of these scatterbrained Polly Pockets?
Story-wise Maleficent is a satisfying watch. Jolie fills her character with heart and the capability of infinite love. If only the CGI experts filled their green-screens with the same devotion. The colours are great and the gnome-like inhabitants of the Moors are creative, but the CGI itself is a little wimpy. It’s obvious that real toddler Aurora chases the butterfly to the cliff edge, but ‘whoever’ is magically rescued from certain death looks squirmy, shiny, and possibly inflatable.
My hopes may have been too high going into Maleficent. The previews make it look beautifully dark, but it really isn’t. It’s heartwarming, playful, and a little obsessed with revenge, but not from the characters you’d expect. A bit more maliciousness – a bit more malevolence – is all I wanted from Maleficent. 7/10.