There's no such thing as true love, really?
Film Review © 2014 by Trip Reynolds
Directed by Robert Stromberg; Screenplay by Linda Woolverton; Story ("La Belle au bois dormant") by Charles Perrault; Story ("Little Briar Rose") by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm; Story ("Sleeping Beauty") by Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Ted Sears, Ralph Wright, and Milt Banta.
Starring: Angelina Jolie (as a Maleficent), Elle Fanning (as Aurora), Sharlto Copley (as Stefan); Lesley Manville (as Flittle), Imelda Staunton (as Knotgrass), Juno Temple (as Thistletwit); Sam Riley (as Diaval), Brenton Thwaites (as Prince Phillip), and Kenneth Cranham (as King Henry).
It's a wonderful thing when you allow yourself to become emersed in the film you're watching. To allow yourself to escape, to become lost in the fantasy being projected on the screen before you. That's what happens in good movies, and especially in great films. Although not a great film, "Maleficent" is definitely a good movie.
Of course, many people know the basic story of "Sleeping Beauty," and since its release in 1959, surely almost a billion people have seen this classic Walt Disney animated film. Re-making a classic film is risky ($$$), because the original is, in a word, legendary. So, don't worry, this is not a re-make. Instead, this time out Disney is re-imaging "Sleeping Beauty" with several twists and turns. The Screenplay for "Maleficent" is a combination of several sources, "La Belle au bois dormant," and "Little Briar Rose" and "Sleeping Beauty," but surprisingly, this is acheived without making the storyline too complex. The malefic aspects of this film are not conveyed by Jolie as Maleficent, but by those who sought to physically and emotionally harm her, and who successfully did maim her both physically and emotionally. Maleficent was the true victim, but even though she had the mystical powers to be extremely vindictive and actually kill to achieve ultimate retribution, she didn't. Instead, she leveled a curse, and even that didn't go as she expected.
Yes, it's a story of good versus evil, but the ultimate evil didn't wear a dress and a horned headpiece, but walked with a penis and exhorted the duplicity of power and politics. Jolie does a wonderful job of protraying a sincere care for her dominion, a world of goodness with all kinds of living beings who live in harmony, separate from the harsh material world of man. Unfortunately, "separate but equal" doesn't work in this fantasy either, particularly when opposed by the material world of man that's focused on conquest and control.
After the wrongs done to Maleficent, Jolie deftly conveys and switches back and forth from extremes of joy versus anger, while also presenting an underlying presence of sadness. The frequent close-ups of Jolie's eyes reveal Maleficent's emotional struggle. In this regard, Jolie's performance leads you to get lost in the fantasy being projected on the screen before you. As Maleficent, Jolie's character is by default good not evil, but the wrongs done against her prompt her to respond with an equivalent level of maleficence. This is a fantasy, but as you watch this film, for enlightened adults (and some children), the correlation of this film to historical events can't be ignored: the decimation of indigenous Native Americans by White people; the decimation of indigenous South American people by Spain; the enslavement of Africans by England, France, and Spain. The analogous message here should not go unnoticed.
Film is directed capably by Robert Stromberg, and nicely paced at 97 minutes.
As expected, special effects gave the film a life-like appeal. Maleficent's world was lush and colorful, and her flying and wingspan were breathtaking. Technical aspects were all solid.
Recommendation: See it. Buy the BlueRay/DVD and file it next to your copy of Disney's 1959 classic, "Sleeping Beauty."