Release Date: May 30, 2014
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Brenton Thwaites
Director: Robert Stromberg
Studio: Walt Disney Studios, Roth Films
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios, Motion Pictures
Genre(s): Dark fantasy, Adventure, Fairytale
Based On La Belle au bois dormant by Charles Perrault
Review Spoilers: Heavy
I don’t know if it was all of the extreme extra effects or the Lana del Rey song, but I had some pretty low expectations for Maleficent.
Maleficent in Disney’s 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty is one of my favorite characters in the animated Disney movies. No only is she perfectly evil, but she is unrelentingly so. She’s not goofy or accident prone, no one mocks or laughs at Maleficent. She is evil and she revels in it. So when I saw Angelina Jolie dolled up as my favorite villain with a tear in her eye in the trailer, I was pretty much ready to throw in the towel, say nope, and put the movie in my list of things I don’t need to watch.
But then the release date rolled around and I gave in (inevitably) to the pull of the hype. To be honest, I left the movie pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed Maleficent and it was 100% because of Angelina Jolie.
I’m embarrassed to say that of her filmography, I’ve only ever watched Jolie’s action films. From those, I had garnered a pretty bland opinion of her. So when Jolie first appeared on screen as the titular character, I was surprisingly drawn into her charm.
Particular scenes had me near tears like her losing her wings, or revoking her curse on Aurora. Despite some pretty cheesy scenes where they continue to pan back over to her face for some sort of devious reaction, she never falters in the persona of Maleficent. So, was she everything I wanted? No. But I was definitely blindsided by Angelina Jolie’s version of Maleficent as a villain and a hero.
The rest of the movie? A little vanilla. Elle Fanning is beautiful as Aurora, but really only that. Her skills as an actress in this movie consist of smiling the biggest smile she can and looking doe-eyed. The three fairies played by Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, and Juno Temple are whimsical but to an annoying fault.
Sharlto Copley plays an unredeemable king who seems to teach us that true love doesn’t exist, or at least that ambition is very very wrong. He dons crazy well in this, but it’s nothing like his Murdock from A-Team or Wikus from District 9.
Sam Riley shines through along side Angelina Jolie playing her shapeshifting crow, Diaval. I was really gunning for a Diaval and Aurora romance, but I knew it would never happen. Instead they decided to go super traditional by introducing Brenton Twaites’ Phillip. I suppose it’s perfect since Twiates is about as vanilla adorable as Fanning is.
The special effects were gorgeous, as expected. As was the fantastic wardrobe and makeup department’s work on Maleficent’s gown and Jolie’s makeup. It was particularly enjoyable for me to see the moors at night and see just how far the extent of special effects could go, and I was impressed.
The ultimate message of the film is pretty much expected as the movie progresses. If no one but her true love can break her spell, then why not make her true love a parental love versus romantic? They’ve done it with Once Upon a Time and they’ve done it with Frozen (sibling love, but still). You can pretty much see it a mile away. It’s sweet and probably refreshing from all of the romantic story lines, but why introduce Phillip at all if you’re going to make Maleficent her true love?
Final Thoughts: To watch or not to watch? If you’re a Disney fan, this isn’t something to be missed. Despite the romantic short comings, Jolie is perfect as this Maleficent. But did this blow me out of the water? No, sadly it didn’t.