I never thought I’d see the day I would be talking about Maleficent (2014). It didn’t at the time of it’s release really interest me at the time of it’s original release last summer. Just another cash-in remake by Disney who are well known for going back to there well for more of the same. They’ve been doing it for years from the direct to video films they produced with Aladdin and The Lion King to say the least. I never thought I would see a hugely much forgotten classic getting the same treatment (kind of). An origin story of the classic fairy tale Sleeping Beauty which along with many others has been redefined and reinforced under the guise of the house of mouse ever since 1937. When we think of a fairy tale more than likely are first and strongest memory is going to be animated. I didn’t want to blur my animated memories of the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty which to be fair I remember more for the evil Maleficent rather than Princess Aurora and Prince Philip, which comes down to the powerful voice performance delivered by Eleanor Audley who was a regular with Uncle Walt. Leaving a lingering impression on not just me that had to be explored when you really think about it. Needing to know and understand her motives and drives. Originally making her entrance at the christening of Aurora making again an incredible impression on the audience.
Moving forward 55 years later and we have Angelina Jolie who rarely makes any films today, being more careful in her choices and her work with the U.N. we rarely see her on the big-screen. When she turns up she makes quite the impact, taking on the bold character that is Maleficent the once animated figure who had more of a sorceress feel about her. I was cynical at first, then you see the trailers, a clever choice really, her presence in the role, (helped somewhat by C.G.I.) to bring to life (in 3 dimensions) a larger than life fairy tale figure who understand beyond the incantations, spells and blinding animation.
The whole point of the film (besides making a tidy profit) was to redress and reassess the villain of the classic film. No longer were we focusing on the titular Disney princess who we watch in the forest walk to her fate of pricking herself on a spinning wheel, thats just standard. What we get is the 16 years or more build-up to that moment and more. First finding Maleficent as a young fairy, with wings which is something you have to get used to, not the long draping black cloak complete with chunky horns. A nature loving feisty fairy who knows her own mind, lets see where this goes. Meeting the future King Stefan (Sharlto Copley) of the rival human kingdom who becomes the real villain of the film. That I did not expect, pulling you into see where this leads. Those who weren’t fleshed out before are given more time. Even the raven who was Maleficent’s henchman Diaval (Sam Riley) who’s ironically humanised but more in terms of characters development than literally.
Of course this films falls mostly onto Jolie’s shoulders who delivers an almost pantomime performance at times, the classic villain, balanced with the humanity that Audley’s lacked not that it was her fault. We have the jealousy that overwhelms her that blackens her heart. You can’t have Maleficent without Aurora (Elle Fanning) who is the perfect age for the young innocent princess, probably got a few more in her before she moves onto roles like her sister is getting now. Still very much in the vein of the Disney Princess updated slightly for modern audiences. Even the notion of true love is updated as it is for Frozen (2013) its no longer about boy meets girl. The prince only has a handful of scenes to be honest which allows for more focus on the women who dominate it.
The fairy godparents (not that they are in this film) are the light relief, led by Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton) who leads the renamed fairy’s as they bring up the young princess in hiding. Gone are the names of Flora, Founa and Merryweather, products of the Fifties, now having more sophisticated and contemporary names. Their role is to allow us to forget about all 16 year war waged by the king as he sends his men to their death as they search for Maleficent in the giant thorn fortress that protects the magical kingdom.
This is not your average Disney fairy tale, it does have a bite that could scare the younger kids, and engaging the older ones who will relish seeing knights fight dragons and other magical creature. It’s an eye opener of a film that has only a few really 3dimensional characters, and they’re both female which is rare in Hollywood today. The others are there simply to tell the story, and balance things out. The fairy kingdom leans a little to fake for me at times, if it wasn’t for Jolie I would have called this another fantasy film with heaps of special effects. In the hands of Disney its carefully crafted, they practically rewrote the book on animation which you have to remember, trying to balance both the old and new, hoping this will be another classic. Would you really class origin stories as a potential classic though?
- Does Maleficent’s change of plot hint that Disney is growing up? (www.theguardian.com)
- Review: Maleficent (therosebudcinema.wordpress.com)
- Maleficent (2014) (justbmovies.wordpress.com)
- Maleficent (2014) Review (chithechicken.blogspot.co.uk)
- Maleficent (2014) (littlepenblog.wordpress.com)
- Maleficent (2014) Review (thecraggus.wordpress.com)
- Maleficent (2014) (fohnhouse.blogspot.co.uk)