Is it possible for things to not always be as they seem? Can good and evil have their roles reversed? What happens when the truth is revealed? Will everything change for better or worse? That’s part of the premise behind the DVD release of “Maleficent,” which decided to put a new live action spin on the familiar tale of “Sleeping Beauty.” Sure, there were a few flaws, but the movie managed to capture for the most what it intended to achieve.
“Maleficent” followed a young fairy named Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) who lived in a perfect kingdom that located deep inside a forest that was full of various creatures looking to lives their lives in peace. Unfortunately, there was a human kingdom that was eager to destroy the forest for their own supremacy. When she was a young girl, Maleficent was once a trusting fairy who had fun spreading her wings and flying around to make sure every creature in the kingdom was safe. She was surprised by a human visitor in the form of a young boy who was orphaned and searching for ways to grasp onto wealth and power. Maleficent formed a valuable friendship with the boy that could’ve turned into something more as they got older, but he shunned their friendship in order to rise amongst the ranks of the humans. Many years went by before the two would meet up again. King Henry (Kenneth Cranham) was looking to make a name for himself and wanted to attack the forest, but he was thwarted by Maleficent and the creatures. Sadly, he was fatally wounded and wanted his final request for someone to kill Maleficent. The person who managed to complete the task would be named the King’s successor, which gave his aide an idea to secure his future. It turned out that Stefan (Sharlto Copley) was the King’s aide and he decided to seek out his old friend Maleficent, even though his intentions weren’t pure. He pretended that he was there to warn his friend of the King’s threat, but he decided to kill her to become King himself. When it came time to do it, he decided to cut off her wings and use that as proof rather than commit the actual deed. That act of betrayal forced Maleficent to curse his daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning) to an endless sleep when she turned 16. What Maleficent didn’t plan on was that her conscience was going to get the better of her as she got to know Aurora as she grew up and realized that her actions might’ve been too hasty. Will Maleficent be able to save Aurora from the curse or fail in the process?
In terms of questions, the movie managed to answer them in such a way that there were a few twists along the way, such as the movie’s chief relationship was between Maleficent and Aurora rather than the traditional good versus evil story. Maleficent was initially portrayed as the ultimate movie villainess with the appearance to back it up, but the character’s role changed as the story progressed. She might have initially cursed Aurora to a grim fate, but she grew to love the child in a way that her own father could never embrace her. Maleficent was even a better guardian than the three fairies (Leslie Manville, Imelda Staunton, and Juno Temple) that Stefan charged with traking care of her for the first 16 years of her life. The fairies spent most of their time fighting amongst themselves that Aurora’s needs were often overlooked, which was why Maleficent often stepped in without their knowledge. She also got added bonus of messing with them every chance she got. It was also surprising that the supposedly good King Stefan turned into a power hungry villain who would rather sit alone in a dark room rather than spend what little time he could with his cursed family. He spend years plotting ways to destroy Maleficent that his loyal subjects were seemingly less loyal to him and more afraid of what he could do to them if they crossed him. It also helped that the movie tried to find the right mixture of comedy and drama to make it seem less grim for both adults and children. Ultimately, the movie’s main message seemed that it was always best to expect the unexpected. Maleficent might’ve initially been deemed as Aurora’s tormentor, but she turned out to be her savior in the end when no one was able to help her. Not even the form of a handsome young prince could help the princess might it counted. The movie’s added bonuses was that some of the special effects were rather interesting, such as the constant transformation of Sam Riley’s Diaval from a bird to other creatures that he needed to be for Maleficent’s benefit. With the movie’s success, the possibility of a sequel could not be as remote as it may seem, but it would need a viable story and for Jolie to sign to make it work. Only time will tell if that’s a possibility.
As for breakout performances, Jolie, Fanning and Copley led the pack as their characters often proved to be the driving force behind most of the movie’s key stories. Jolie’s Maleficent was designed to be more than the stereotypical movie villain that looked like a monster and scared little children as soon as they walked into a room. She often displayed Maleficent’s wide array of emotions from happiness, sadness, innocence and anger sometimes in the same scene. Jolie made viewers feel for Maleficent when her wings were stolen from her and when she thought she lost Aurora forever. She also managed to deliver some of the film’s funniest lines as she plotted and cracked jokes at the same time. Jolie’s strongest scene came when she went to visit Aurora after the curse took hold of her. She pretended to be stoic, but she realized that she loved the girl that she cursed to this fate and pledged to always protect her. Jolie also made Maleficent’s reaction to Aurora’s expected recovery both sweet and humorous at the same time as she tried to downplay her character’s affection for the girl. Fanning’s Aurora was designed to be the ultimate portrayal of naive innocence who looked at the world as a bright display of color and everyone that she came across as a potential friend, until proven otherwise. It was also amusing to watch one of Jolie’s daughter portray a young Aurora who wasn’t afraid of Maleficent that even embraced her despite Maleficent’s protests. That scene helped to demonstrate the growing relationship between the characters that evolved into them saving each other at the film’s most crucial moments. Even though Copley’s Stefan was the villain, he managed to give Stefan an extra layer of complication that evolved into an extreme level of paranoia in the end. He did have some chemistry with Jolie, but it devolved into a rivalry that proved to be fatal. Copley’s strongest scene was early in the film when Stefan struggled with the idea of killing Maleficent before he clipped her wings literally. Viewers could see the struggle on his face as he held the knife, but that look gave way to something worse as the film went on.
Verdict: Jolie’s portrayal of a misunderstood villain and her rapport with Fanning’s Aurora made the movie worth watching for children and adults.
DVD Score: 3 out of 5 stars
Movie Rating: PG
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)