Maleficent is based on the classic Disney animated feature Sleeping Beauty. The new film gives a new view point on Disney’s scariest villain. But in the process, the movie completely changes the character and the ending of a vintage tale.
The basic is story is the same. Maleficent casts a curse foretelling that the young princess will prick her finger on a spinning wheel on her sixteenth birthday and fall into death-like sleep. But then the story abruptly changes and the tale is rewritten. The bad fairy’s heart is softened by the child. Maleficent comes to regret the curse but does not have the power to change the outcome. Instead she tries her best to break the spell. The king becomes the de-facto villain as he sinks into further paranoia after the curse is set.
Maleficent, at first glance, is a grand tribute to the original picture. The production, make-up and costume crew pay great attention to detail. Angelina Jolie brings Maleficent to life working with a dialogue coach to mimic the distinctive tone Eleanor Audley gave the character in the original. The costume team recreates the basic iconic look of the character when she visits the baby princess. It was refreshing to see that instead of making Maleficent into Angelina Jolie, the production team turned her into Maleficent. And it worked well, Jolie enveloping the character and giving it new life.
But Jolie is the only great performer. Supposedly the cast was chosen based on the fact that they looked like the original characters but Prince Phillip looks like someone from One Direction and his character is minimized greatly. The film spends more time on Sharlto Copley as King Stefan instead. Unfortunately, Copley is flat, uninspiring and quite grating. Even Elle Fanning doesn’t blow you away with the stereotypical angelic child with a lack of fear and no idea of true evil.
This could all be overlooked if the film didn’t get all hippy dippy (for a lack of a more politically correct word) and rewrite the story. The idea of “True Love’s Kiss” is flipped 180, and Maleficent actually becomes quite found of the child. Even her most famous line “And all the powers of Hell!” is erased in this over-family-friendly adaptation.
The bright spot is the guardian fairies. While the iconic dress battle is not included, their ineptitude for carrying for the child infuses humor at each turn. These fairies aren’t the brightest of the forest blooms but they just might be the nicest.
Overall, Maleficent is a good movie if you can separate this film from the Disney classic you grew up with. But anyone expected the badass Maleficent will be sorely disappointed. But at least there is a dragon.