First off, I would just like to put it out there that there is no other actress in Hollywood who can pull off the role of Maleficent as well as Angelina Jolie. Ever since I’ve heard that they’ve cast her for the role, I’ve been really excited about this film, and when the time finally came that I finally saw the movie in its entirety, I must say that I was not disappointed.
Maleficent tells the story two kingdoms — one ruled by a greedy and unjust king, and the moors, a land populated with magical creatures and ruled by none. Maleficent belongs to the latter, and because of her power, she has appointed herself the guardian and protector of her people. When she meets a human, a boy named Stefan, her curiosity for humanity leads her to form a friendship with him and they eventually develop a romantic relationship. But Stefan’s ambition and thirst for power betrays his affection for Maleficent and he commits the ultimate treachery that broke her heart and set off the chain of events that eventually became the tale of Sleeping Beauty.
Maleficent is one of Disney’s best villains because she has an effortless grace about her that exudes sophistication and power. The original 1959 film depicted her as a ruthless and malicious fairy who wanted Aurora dead at all costs (for an unexplained reason) and for all intents and purposes, that version of Maleficent worked for the fairy tale version where Prince Philip slayed the dragon and finally wins peace for the kingdom, and then they lived happily ever after. Maleficent’s version of the story starts way before the events of the fairy tale, where it was explained how she became the sad, lonely and vindictive fairy she was. Compared to the original Disney classic, there were some parts of both stories that did not match, and audiences will feel confused for a bit, but it all ties together in the end.
Jolie did a marvelous job as Maleficent, not only because she looked (and sounded) the part but because she presented new layers to the character with her excellent acting. The money shots were actually the close ups when she didn’t say anything but let her eyes do the emoting. These scenes were so powerful that audiences immediately understand her anguish. My favorite parts of the movie were actually when her real life daughter Vivienne played Aurora at age 3 gave her a big hug and touched her horns. Another was when she had a change of heart about the curse and tried to make things right — the intensity of that scene was so moving. It was interesting to see how differently she actually felt about Aurora from the original movie and the role she played while Aurora was growing up.
It was weird that they cast Leslie Manville, the same person who tormented Harry Potter and his pals as Dolores Umbridge, to play the role of Flittle, one of the pixies who helped raised Aurora. It was weird because I kept expecting her to do something nasty, which is a testament to her effectiveness in her villainess role in HP. Sharlto Copley as King Stefan and Sam Riley as Diaval, Maleficent’s confidante and right hand raven, were also standouts in this movie.
I can’t really fault Disney for its design and animation because it was beautifully done, especially the dragon. The designs were also consistent with the original Sleeping Beauty, except for the fairies, who turned out to be pixies with different names. So, good job to the design team.
All in all, Maleficent is really Angeline Jolie’s movie. And it was basically a narration of the story from a different point of view. Its a darker, yet more human approach to the story which still ended up happy, although at first it would end up more tragically. It was fairly predictable but I actually enjoyed it. It is after, all, a kiddie movie and kids will definitely look at Maleficent differently now.