Maleficent may be the “origins” story of the Sleeping Beauty villain, but do not go in expecting Angelina Jolie to channel the most evil parts of one of the more feared Disney villains in cinematic history. Instead, we get a woman bent on revenge, justice and surprisingly one who is driven by maternal emotions.
We meet Maleficent as director Robert Stromberg and screenwriter Linda Woolverton paint a picture of a pair of kingdoms living side by side. One is inhabited by fairies and the other by humans who essentially fear the supernatural world next door.
Maleficent is just a little fairy girl with magnificent wings. When she hears of a human intruder, she rushes to the border. It is there she meets a boy named Stefan. The two become friends and, as they get older, much more. But as time goes by, Stefan (now played by Sharlto Copley) has power inside his veins where love once ruled. Betrayal rears its head and Stefan cuts off Maleficent's wings, brings them to his dying king and is anointed leader.
He marries and has a daughter named Aurora. At her christening, the entire kingdom comes to pay their respects and so too does Maleficent. We all know the story from here from the classic fairy tale with a curse that can only be broken by "true love's kiss."
The daughter grows up to be played by Elle Fanning, and she constantly notices this dark figure always looking over her. As seen in this Maleficent clip, she thinks it’s her fairy godmother. In fact, we know it to be something completely the opposite. But, is it?
How Maleficent jives with Sleeping Beauty is a bit off in this version. Fans of the original are warned. Here, Jolie plays Maleficent as a woman who develops feelings for this young woman with whom she has put a curse upon. And to say that complicates things is a gross understatement.
There could not have been a better actor to play Stefan than Copley. He plays the king as someone riddled with guilt over what he did to Maleficent to the point where, in this film, he starts going mad.
Jolie too is impeccably cast, and it seems that she was born to play this role. But whereas when we first saw that Maleficent trailer all those months ago, we thought this was Jolie’s chance to play a true villain, and no one could sink their teeth into such a dark soul like Maleficent better than the Oscar-winning actress.
But, that is not the Maleficent we are given. She is a kinder, gentler version of a villain. Instead of being driven by evil, she is moved by misplaced revenge.
The scenes between Jolie and Fanning are downright touching, and it is clear that Jolie comes at those moments from maternal feelings she knows all too well from her own life. On that note, the scene with her real life daughter Vivienne Jolie-Pitt may be one of the best in the entire movie. Prepare to utter quite a few "awwws!"
Our Maleficent review enjoyed the experience of the film immensely. It was just not exactly what we thought we were going to get. Having time since the screening to digest that, we are fine with the changes in the fairy tale that we see on screen.
But, those expecting a Jolie fire and brimstone performance as Disney’s greatest villain will surely be disappointed.