I couldn’t wait to see Angelina Jolie’s performance as Maleficent in Disney’s upside down production of the Sleeping Beauty story, but I half expected to walk away being disappointed. Instead, I was thrilled.
This movie is not for those who have never seen Walt Disney’s original animated ’59 film or are not familiar with the basic story. No, this is a movie for those who have and if you think you’ll just see a rehashing of the same old story, think again. Linda Woolverton, who has written many screenplays for Disney including 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, has written another fantastic example of storytelling. It takes a special knack in telling a story that follows the basic premise of the original tale that you and then showing you a different side to it. Honestly, I didn’t know how the movie was going to end, which made the movie very fun to watch. It is full of action and adventure. Even the theme song, “Once Upon a Dream,” sung by Lana Del Rey during the end credits is creepy-sounding.
It is by no surprise how good Jolie is in role of the villain. The scenes during baby Princess Aurora’s coronation are especially impressive and match the iconic role of the original. She is deliciously evil, but as this version will tell you, she wasn’t always.
Maleficent was a good and powerfully strong fairy that protected the woodland creatures. However, as you have undoubtedly seen in the previews, her giant wings were stolen from her. This knocked her powers down a bit but only fueled her hatred for all of mankind. She saves a crow from some hunters by turning him into a man named Diaval (Sam Riley) who then acts as her servant and her “wings.” Diaval spies on King Stephen (Sharlto Copley) and reports back to her that the king and queen have just had a baby girl and…well, you know how that goes.
The three fairies that help raise Aurora in a cabin in the woods; Flittle (Leslie Manville), Thistletwit (Juno Temple) and Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton) have their hands full with just one baby to take care of. As Aurora grows older, she ventures further and further away from her home and mistakes Maleficent as her fairy godmother. Meanwhile King Stephen grows angrier and angrier seeking revenge against the dark one. Elle Fanning makes a fine Aurora, but this really isn’t her movie. It belongs to Jolie.
In the end, Maleficent is a story of good, evil, love and redemption. It also shares a very real truth that one’s actions cannot be erased by magic and that there are consequences for our bad behavior. It is rated PG and will probably be too intense for little ones. Rule of thumb – if your kids can’t handle the animated Maleficent, they won’t very much warm up to this one either.