Thanks to beautiful visual effects and the talents of Angelina Jolie, Disney’s ultimate villain has received a new a backstory worth telling – even if the movie has a few flaws in the telling of that story. The film delivers a new twist to the classic fairy tale and makes the audience understand why she is a tad naughty from time to time.
Unfortunately, every good villain is ruined by their backstory, and Maleficent (Jolie) is no different. The objective of this backstory is to explain why Maleficent became such an evil character and to make you feel differently for her. As some wise person said, there are always two sides to the same story.
Jolie is joined by Elle Fanning as the beautiful and innocent Aurora the teenager. The male roles in this film are pretty much wasted parts, especially Prince Phillip who is played by Australian actor Brenton Thwaites. In a strange twist, Phillip is not nearly as significant as the original story, but that is a bordering on spoiler info so I will leave it at that.
The other wasted characters in the film are the fairies, who for some reason had name changes. They have been downgraded to Knotgrass, Thistletwit, and Flittle. Those of us that remember Merryweather, Flora, and Fauna might be a bit disappointed in these fairy versions that this film produces. They are idiotic in everything they try to do, which includes trying to raise poor Aurora. I honestly felt sorry for poor baby Aurora and the fairies care of her bordered on child abuse.
I am assuming that the producers and writers meant for them to be comic relief, but they fall very flat and stupid in the attempt.
The other major character that has big changes is King Stefan, played by Sharlto Copley. While he didn’t have much screen time in the original, he gets plenty here, and viewers might be a bit shocked at his ambitious nature. He secures himself the throne in a way that gives much sympathy to Maleficent, thus the backstory commences into our hearts and Stephan becomes much more of a villain than any fairy.
Jolie does an excellent job in her role of being both sides: good and evil, and the audience will play into exactly why she becomes what she does. I felt much sympathy for her as the opening scenes show her as a child in her fairy land, happy and free. Then she is betrayed but all is not lost. She is angry for a good part of the film, even going to the extreme to curse the baby Aurora to death, but she is redeemable, as we see through out. In fact, due to the fairies’ incompetence, Aurora owes her life to Maleficent as it is she who seems to be taking charge and feeding the babe, keeping her safe, etc.
No matter her feelings for Aurora, Maleficent can’t let go of her revenge – even if she wants to break the curse. Aurora is doomed to die (or fall into a deep sleep, and I am not sure how death is any different). The whole ‘true love’s kiss’ comes into play but with the twists and turns of the movie, the audience might be surprised at how this turns out (I was).
Even with its faults, Maleficent is a fun movie because fans of the original get to see how the story changes when it is being told from Maleficent’s perspective. I also enjoyed the special features and how the story of the story came to be. When writer Linda Woolverton started the screenplay, she asked herself how she would tell the story of someone so evil they would curse a baby to die, what brought them to this vile act? It is unique look into the writing process and decisions that made the film what it is. Also, Jolie was very involved in many of the decisions of costuming and make-up.
Maleficent kept me thoroughly entertained start to finish. I was not happy with some of the changes made to the original story (i.e. King Stefan and the good fairies), but some of the changes are refreshing and a good take on a classic. Jolie’s performance is spot on and she is a great reason to watch as she turns from good to evil and back again.