Disney has always done good villains but now it seems that they want us to get to know them better, to understand them. Villain origin stories are officially a thing for the happiest place in the world ™ it seems. First we discovered why the Wicked Witch of the West was quite so wicked in Oz the Great and the Powerful and now we find out what has got the bad fairy from Sleeping Beauty all het up. Meet Maleficent.
Maleficent | Robert Stromberg | 2014 | USA/UK | PG |98 min
Maleficent was a pure-hearted young fairy living in The Moors, the magical place out of bounds for humans. By chance she meets a human boy, Stefan, and falls in love with him. As she grows stronger and more powerful she becomes the guardian of The Moors, but she still can’t turn her back on Stefan. When he betrays her in his own pursuit of power her heart turns to stone and she is consumed by anger and the need for revenge. On hearing of the birth of Stefan’s – now King – daughter, she gatecrashes her Christening to curse the infant. Before the sun sets on her 16th birthday she will prick her finger on a spindle… you know the rest.
Or do you? Maleficent keeps a watchful eye over the cursed Princess Aurora, but is it to make sure her curse is fulfilled, or for another reason?
To be truthful, this film is all about Angelina Jolie. She seems made to play to Disney villain and she does so perfectly. Hitting the right balance between menacing and campy with the arch of a brow she is at once commanding and entertaining. She plays Maleficent’s transition from good to evil to kind of back again with such conviction it gives the slightly convuluted story credibility. Additionally, the make up and costume design is incredible, giving Maleficent such a strong image that after watching the film, any time you think of a ‘bad fairy’, you’ll surely think of Ange.
Unfortunately this is where the good ends. Sharlto Copley (Stefan) is unusually disappointing and has one of the worst Scottish accents committed to screen. His character is supposed to show shades of Macbeth but falls flat. Elle Fanning (Aurora) and the other secondary characters are far too overshadowed by Jolie to remain interesting. Further, the good fairies who are charged with looking after the princess are supposed to provide the light relief but barely managed to raise a giggle from the crowd of kids in the cinema where I watched the film.
If you are particularly interested in costume and make-up design you might like this film. True also if you are a big fan of Angelina Jolie (and who isn’t). The poster images are instant classics, but sadly the film is not.