Dee Discusses: Maleficent

Posted: June 30, 2014 by Dee in Dee, General Media, Movies, New Movies, Reviews
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There will be spoilers in this review.

As soon as I saw the teaser for this movie, I was psyched to go and see it. It stars Angelina Jolie who is probably my favorite actress, and I love, love, love new spins on classical fairy tales. It’s probably why in general I enjoy Once Upon a Time; I’m a fairy tale nerd. Maleficent is one of the best known Disney villains. It’s probably her presence, she just has this beautiful dark design to her character that looked fabulous on an animated level. I was super impressed with how they made subtle changes to Jolie’s face to fit the character better, and the costumes were deliberately designed to fit the Sleeping Beauty look. I fully expected this to be a redemptive storyline, since it’s rare a movie is about a villain and doesn’t strive to make us understand their side of things. Plus it’s Disney. Of course they’re going to make it family friendly. None of that mattered. I wanted to see Jolie sweep across the stage like a regal badass queen, and that’s exactly what I got from it. Plus on top of that, a truly enjoyable story with only a few flaws. I’ll talk about that more later. Here’s the story of Maleficent.

Maleficent is a young and innocent fairy born in the Moors, a magical place that borders a wary and paranoid human kingdom. She has beautiful giant wings and flies around, making friends with all the others in the Moors. One day a human boy named Stefan comes to their side to steal something, and he makes friends with Maleficent. The two spend years building a deep friendship and then fall in love. Eventually she becomes a powerful force to protect the Moors against the current king, who promises anyone who can kill her will be his heir. Stefan, now an adult and full of greed, sneaks into the Moors to see Maleficent again. While she falls asleep, trusting him, he can’t bring it in him to kill her. Instead he uses iron – the only thing that can hurt fairies – to cut off her wings. He uses them to prove he killed her and become king, but Maleficent wakes up with her wings gone and her heart broken. The sorrow and agony turns into fury and vengeance. At this point she meets a raven named Diaval and after saving his life, he agrees to be her loyal sidekick from then on. She goes back to the Moors and takes over, not as their protector, but as their new dark queen.

Diaval brings the news to her that Stefan and his queen had a daughter, and her christening is soon. Maleficent arrives at the celebration, after these foolish fairies start to give Aurora gifts, and she terrifies everyone there. She forces Stefan to beg her after she pronounces a terrible curse on the baby: she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel by her 16th birthday and fall into an eternal sleep. He begs and she adds that she can only be awoken by true love’s kiss. It was meant mockingly, since Stefan called their relationship true love,  and now she believed it was just a lie. The three fairies take Aurora away at the King’s request and hide her in a cottage. They are absolutely terrible guardians, having no idea how to handle a human baby, and Maleficent and Diaval secretly raise Aurora. Despite cursing the girl, she soon grows to reluctantly love her, and allows her into the Moors as she gets older. At one point she attempts to remove the curse, wanting to protect Aurora instead, but her original curse said no one could reverse it, not even her. One day Aurora begs to come to the Moors full time and Maleficent agrees, there’s no spinning wheels there, but Aurora meets a handsome prince named Philip on the way home. Diaval points out that he could be the true love who would take her out of her sleep.

When Aurora finds out the truth about who she is and the curse, she cries and berates Maleficent, and goes to the castle. There she fulfills the curse. Maleficent and Diaval break into the castle with Philip, intent on getting him to kiss Aurora and wake her up. They have to go through iron traps that Stefan has put up for her. In the end it’s Maleficent’s kiss on Aurora’s forehead that wakes her up, and all is forgiven. But on their way out Stefan traps Maleficent with iron and weakens her severely. During the fight, she turns Diaval into a dragon, but even he can’t save her. It’s Aurora who does, releasing the wings that Stefan kept on display all this time, and Maleficent has a show down with her once love. She forgives him in the end, but he tries to kill her and falls to his death. Aurora takes over, and the Moors makes final peace with her queendom. Maleficent is back on the side of good and her wings are restored.

Looking back on it, I’d say there’s only one thing that bothers me, and that’s the curse. This is a small thing, but it felt like it was Disney morphed for moral reasons. In the original, Maleficent said the girl would die if she pricked her finger, and then the last fairy uses her wish to change it to sleep unless true love’s kiss. The weird part is that the third fairy never gives her gift, Maleficent comes in at the right time like in the original, but that is left open. I wonder if they originally shot it with her declaring death on the baby, and audiences responded negatively or they thought it was just too dark if they wanted to redeem her. But I think it does take something away, because her sleeping forever isn’t quite as daunting as ‘she will straight up die.’ It’s still bad, but I think it was a chance for them to go a little darker, and since the rest of the movie she redeems herself, it would make everything much sadder. I like that she enacts the curse out of fury, and she regrets it, because everyone makes decisions they horribly regret when consequences start to happen. Not everyone to this degree, one would hope, but it was a mistake that was interesting to watch turn on her. Philip doesn’t have much of a role, but that didn’t really bother me. I did sort of wish that she and Stefan had a show down that wasn’t as simple as him falling off the roof. I really wanted her to be able to say all the things she didn’t get to say to him before, about how he betrayed her and broke her. I wanted there to be a real confrontation there, so it was a little disappointing it ended so quickly.

Angelina Jolie is fantastic in this movie, as I expected. Not only does she look gorgeous, but she does a great job with the funny and emotional moments. You believe her performance. Elle Fanning is the same way, she’s very charming and innocent, and fits her role perfectly. A stand out to me was Sam Riley as the raven Diaval. He had a great blend of humor and the moral compass for Maleficent. Visually this movie is stunning. The Moors is fascinating, the battles between the humans and the tree creatures was so fun to watch, and Maleficent herself as a warrior was intimidating. The costume design was lovely, and the overall atmosphere of menace and whimsy worked really well. I wonder if parts of this are a little scary for kids, but I know a few people who brought their kids and they were fine. I can’t wait to see the behind the scenes of the movie. All in all I enjoyed Maleficent and I am genuinely surprised it got mixed reviews.  They praised Angelina Jolie and the special effects, but seemed to have a problem with the story. I thought the story was basic but decent. It was exactly what I wanted out of the movie. To each their own.


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