Film Review: “Maleficent” (2014)


Directed by: Robert Stromberg

Writers: Linda Woolverton, Charles Perrault

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Sam Riley, Isobelle Molloy and etc.

We have seen many different versions of “Sleeping Beauty”, beginning with Walt Disney`s 1959 animated film ‘Sleeping Beauty” and ending with the ABC TV show “Once Upon a Time.” The story of Sleeping Beauty is a simple one: Once Upon a time, the infant princess (named Aurora in the Disney version), is cursed by the evil witch ‘Maleficent’ who declares, that before Aurora reaches her 16th birthday, she will die by pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning-wheel. One fairy, who hadn`t yet given her gift, uses it to reverse the evil fairy`s curse. However, she can only reverse part of the curse, so instead of dying, the princess will fall into a deep sleep for 100 years and be awoken by a King`s son. To prevent the curse from coming true, the King puts his daughter into hiding where she is cared for by three, good hearted, though not too bright, fairies.

In this version of ‘Sleeping Beauty, as directed by Robert Stromberg (who has his directing debut), we see a very different version of Maleficent.  A modern version, who is good-natured, until her heart turns into stone. Robert Stromberg, who is very well known for his visual works in such films as The Hunger Games, The Golden Compass, Life of Pi, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World`s End, brings us his own film, in which Angelina Jolie stars as Maleficent. It is hard to believe, but Mrs Jolie makes a wicked fairy/witch just magnificent.

The film starts with the narrating voice of an elderly woman who tells the story of Maleficent, a very strong and powerful fairy, living in the Moors; a magical realm that borders upon a human kingdom. As a young and pure-hearted girl, Maleficent (played by Isobelle Molloy) meets and falls in love with a human boy, named Stefan. When he grows up, he betrays her with his desire to become King.  One day, when Maleficent (played by Angelina Jolie) becomes wickedly beautiful, and very powerful, an invading army threatens the harmony of her beloved land. Maleficent becomes the land`s defender. She is fearless and ready to face the King’s army with his countless soldiers.  She is ready to destroy anyone who will try to ruin her peaceful forest kingdom. However, as any human would, her kind heart begins to turn to stone when she is betrayed by the person she loves most- her dearest friend, Stefan.

When she learns of the King`s newborn infant Aurora, she attends her christening, even though, she was not invited and not welcome inside the Kingdom.  Seeking revenge, Maleficent faces battle with the invading king`s successor and places a curse upon his newborn infant, Aurora. As the child grows, Maleficent realizes she has made a huge mistake and tries to reverse the curse. However, there is only one power that exists that can break the curse of Maleficent, and this is the kiss of love…

“Maleficent’ has echoes of ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’: the use of the faerie, or realm of fairies. In addition, there is no reason to see this film in 3D. The film itself still looks astonishing and visually breathtaking without 3D glasses. Parallels aside, I found very interesting the path Maleficent took from innocence, to betrayal, to revenge, and finally, from love to forgiveness. This was nothing short of  becoming a visceral carnage of emotions. Angelina Jolie is so immersed in her role, it is easy to believe that Maleficent’s cries of trauma and pain, are her own.

My only complaint is that Elle Fanning is completely wrong for the part of Aurora. Aurora is perhaps the original film’s most valued asset. She moves like a princess, she sings like a princess, and she carries herself like a princess, even if she doesn’t know she is one. Elle Fanning seems confused, bored, and uninspired; wandering in and out of scenes with little rhyme or reason. Her appearance in the film makes Aurora seem pointless and useless, which made me wonder how she was ultimately cast in the role to begin with.

Overall, “Maleficent” is a terrific, beautiful, well-written and meaningful film that brings us another meaning of true love; I mean the real meaning of a true love. Some of you might say “Maleficent” is too sentimental, and concentrated too much on the feelings of the wicked witch, who does not believe in the existence of love.  But, as in many fairy tales, there is a lesson to be learned,  and that is-  it doesn’t matter how dark the heart, if true love does exist, then an evil person can become good and have love in their heart.  It is all about believing and if Malificent can learn to love, then we can too.

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