Disney’s latest blockbuster Maleficent is a retelling of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty; this time putting the villain herself in the limelight. It is very similar to Wicked, in that it casts the villain as ‘the good guy’, showing us the tale from their perspective. At first glance, you may think that Disney is simply doing a live action remake for the sake of a quick buck. It turns out, however, that Maleficent is far from that. In fact, it’s a complete new tale in and itself.
The beginning of the movie serves as an origin story for our heroine/villain. We learn that Maleficent is a fairy that lives in the Moors; a kingdom filled with mythical creatures that neighbors the human kingdom. Apparently the two kingdoms are not on good terms, but that should be expected as how else is the story gong to have any conflict? Maleficent falls in love with a human peasant named Stefan, who wishes to become king. He has feelings for her too, but his lust for the throne is greater. In order to convince the king he is a worthy heir to the throne, he betrays Maleficent by stealing her wings. Devastated by his betrayal, Maleficent starts to become the cold-hearted villain we know her as.
From here, the story we are familiar with resurfaces; and there are even several similarities with Disney’s original Sleeping Beauty. Of course, we soon discover that things are not quite the same as the original tale. The three fairies turn out to be incompetent at raising baby Aurora, so it is up to Maleficent to watch over her. Despite her reluctance, Maleficent grows close to Aurora; who refers to her as her ‘fairy godmother.” Aurora is still Sleeping Beauty, however, so their happiness sadly does not last long. But this is Maleficent’s story, so things don’t turn out quite as we expect it.
The characters are brought to life thanks to a great cast of actors. Angelina Jolie is an excellent Maleficent; being able to play a tragic character who is a cold-hearted villain but yet a mother figure at the same time. Sharlto Copley, who plays Stefan, goes from being a dorky peasant who annoys us to a paranoid, cruel king who infuriates us. Then there is Sam Riley who plays Diaval; Maleficent’s (shape-shifting) pet raven who went from being a mere prop to a surprisingly good character. And of course we have Elle Fanning who plays Sleeping Beauty herself. She manages to make Aurora irresistibly lovable in the way a Disney princess is supposed to be (it shouldn’t be a surprise, even Maleficent couldn’t resist her cheery innocence).
As for special effects (which pretty much runs the movie), Maleficent does not disappoint. The inhabitants of the Moor look quite spectacular and do well in keeping with the fantasy theme of their realm. Angelina Jolie is made into a very convincing Maleficent; her wings and horns were obviously painstakingly crafted to make sure she was a believable fairy. I loved the parts where she flew; they were really intense and you can feel the wonder and freedom in them. The scenes involving Diaval in his raven form are pretty funny too, if only because it’s funny to see a raven make facial expressions. There’s also a cool scene involving him at the end, but I won’t spoil that for you.
In the end, Maleficent is a grand twist to a classic tale. It manages to stick close to the original story we are familiar with, but changes it enough to offer a totally new experience. Some may not be comfortable with the changes and that is understandable. But that what perspective is all about; it’s offering a different way at looking at things. If there was anything we can learn from Maleficent, it’s that “villain’s” are much more interesting when you learn where they come from.