by Fanny Schmidt
Maleficent tells the story of Sleeping Beauty from the villain’s point of view; it is a story of spurned love, redemption, blinding hatred, the nature of true love and also an intelligent commentary on the nature of humanity and industrialisation. The film stars a spot on Angelina Jolie as eponymous character Maleficent and Elle Fanning as Princess Aurora. Furthermore we have a brilliantly lunatic Sharlto Copley as King Stefan, the at times wonderfully sassy Sam Riley as the raven Diaval and Brenton Thwaites as utterly forgettable Prince Phillip.
As the audience learns quickly, a young Maleficent meets and falls for the human Stefan, who is poor but ambitious and after a whirlwind romance in their youth, the two go their separate ways until Stefan returns to Maleficent to kill her in retaliation for his king’s failed attempt to take over the magical moor Maleficent lives in. He cannot bring himself to actually take her life but instead takes her wings and brings them to the king as proof of his deed, in turn being crowned the new king. In keeping with the old proverb, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned (and brutally mutilated for personal gain) and Maleficent unleashes a curse upon the new born princess, not to be broken by any power on earth. Fearing the incompetence of the three fairies tasked to look after Aurora however, Maleficent spends the next 16 years secretly looking after the ‘beastly child’, eventually having to decide whether or not she was right to curse the princess because of her father’s wrongdoings.
I was afraid the movie would make Maleficent just another broken hearted villainess who is waiting for her one true love to redeem her. But instead of focusing on the broken relationship between Maleficent and Stefan, the movie shifts its focus to the far more interesting relationship between Maleficent and Aurora. Even though the final product is quite different from the original script (Peter Capaldi was originally in it!), Linda Woolverton (who gave us Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King) managed to write a script that was thoroughly Disney but also a thinly veiled critique on capitalism, greed and industrialisation.
Maleficent is the directing debut for Robert Stromberg who was visual effects supervisor for movies like The Geisha, Master and Commander, Avatar, Alice in Wonderland and Oz the Great and Powerful – thus rest assured that the movie is a feast for cineastes. Apart from some feminist complaints I could make (you have magic and the best gift you can think of is beauty – really?), the one thing I found bizarre was the choice to have most male characters speak with an Irish/Scottish accent. It’s not that I don’t enjoy hearing those accents on the big screen, I just wish the actors would have decided on one and stuck with it.
In short, I thoroughly enjoyed every second of the movie – once I realised it wasn’t a story of star crossed lovers. The dialogue is crisp and funny, the actors overall very well chosen for their parts and the cinematography lived up to my expectations. I watched the movie in 2D though and while there were a few scenes I imagine will work quite well in 3D, I don’t think that there is any need to spend the extra money on it.