Stories that deep dive into the origins of a character isn’t always something that will pique my interest. Disney tells us who Maleficent is; and it’s not exactly who or how we might imagine.
Maleficent (2014) Film Review
Despite the threat of human influence, there is peace in the forest kingdom where young kind-hearted Maleficent (Ella Purnell) lives with the woodland folk. She shows compassion to the young Stefan, a human who wanders the borders dividing her home and the neighboring royal kingdom. That day is the start something neither one of them could foresee. Years pass in which the two sneak around to meet until Maleficent’s 16th birthday, and true love’s kiss. After that, Stefan never returns. An adult Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) grows to be the protector of her kingdom, which she enforces when two enemy kingdoms embark on a war. The royalty wages a fight which brings Stefan back into Maleficent’s life, only for him to betray her.
This act of loyalty to the dying king results in Stefan becoming king. Meanwhile Maleficent lets her feelings of betrayal multiply. Sending her raven companion Diaval (Sam Riley) to spy on King Stefan, she learns the happy news that he has a child. Seeing her opportunity to wreck havoc on her former friend’s life, she exacts revenge on baby Aurora only to watch over her as she grows. All until the day when the 16-year-old Aurora (Elle Fanning) discovers she isn’t an ordinary girl.
I’m all in for any kind of fairytale re-telling. I love them, which means it’s a safe assumption I’ll watch pretty much any of them. All we really knew about this initially is it’s not the traditional Sleeping Beauty story. When you think about Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, I’m not sure we ever learn anything about Maleficent as regards her cursing Aurora. In this live-action adaptation, it’s all about Maleficent. Anyone who goes to it thinking anything else will be disappointed. The story takes it’s time setting up the backstory through the heroine’s younger years, introducing the viewer to her as a fairy who had tragedies in her young life, yet came out strong and able to be a cheerful girl who cared about those around her.
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During the opening scenes, I have to be honest, nothing about this has that “wow factor.” I did think, despite its short run time, the opening got things off on the wrong foot. Reason for this being, it seems too much time will be in Maleficent’s early days. That soon changes and on reflection, I’m really impressed by the script and its gentle persuasion in presenting Maleficent’s past. (Plus, the actress does a great job in the scenes.) What’s so unique about this script is how it carefully, beautifully pulls out so much of the character. Not only do the writers answer the why behind her reason, it’s carried off in a convincing way. What’s more, her transition isn’t about an “ah-ha” moment, rather it’s through the impact of her silent guardianship of Aurora. It’s what she sees in Aurora, it’s how she loves her that is the difference in cracking Maleficent’s heart. This shows us (and her) that beneath her fierce, jaded exterior lies a being with a capacity to love, and make choices. (Have to add, I adore this Aurora; how curious and sweet a character was she!?)
If there is any kind of flaw in the film, it’s the special effects. The humor is sensational (like plopping raw vegetables into a baby’s crib, expecting she’ll eat them or Maleficent’s first reaction to Philip); and I especially enjoy the fairies who we may remember fighting over the color of Aurora’s dress.
If you are looking to take a trip to the cinema, consider this latest Disney jewel. It’s enchanting in a unique way, puts an entirely new spin on the story and what’s more, it challenges the fairytale. Proof that fictional or not, there are two sides to every story.
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Content: other than its magic themes and frightening images or terrifying battles, there is really nothing of consequence to mention. And what’s frightening is dependent on what your young viewers can handle. The film is PG.