Warning: Some spoilers contained in the synopsis
Synopsis: The retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story from the perspective of Maleficent. Angelina Jolie stars as the title character. As a teenager Maleficent is a powerful and respected fairy who helps protect a magical land full of mythical creatures. Her homeland borders a country ruled by the cruel and superstitious King Henry. One day, a peasant boy named Stefan trespasses and meets Maleficent. Overtime the two conflicted teenagers fall in love. Several years later, King Henry decides to conquer the fair kingdom and Maleficent defeats him. On his deathbed, Henry demands revenge and promise. Stefan betrays Maleficent. She swears revenge and curses Stefan’s first born child, the Princess Aurora. On her 16th birthday Aurora will fall into a death like sleep after pricking her finger on a spinning wheel. Only true loves kiss will revive Sleeping Beauty from her slumber. Stefan commands the destruction of all spinning wheels and sends Aurora off to be raised secretly in the woods. Maleficent cannot stay away from Aurora and develops maternal feelings, inspiring her to attempt to undo the curse.
Review: Sleeping Beauty is a classic fairy tale. Several generations have enjoyed the animated Disney film. However, the original Sleeping Beauty film lacks depth. While enjoyable, the original does not give the characters any dimensions and Prince Phillip might as well be a piece of cardboard. I love the Disney Princess Films and I think they fulfill an important niche in the entertainment industry. However, as an adult, I sometimes crave a more developed fairy tale. Thankfully, Maleficent came along and saved the fairy tale from the curse of one-dimensional characters.
Angelina Jolie perfectly raises Maleficent out of caricature and into the realm of realism. Ms. Jolie perfectly captures the conflict Maleficent feels about her curse and maternal feelings towards Aurora. Throughout the film, Maleficent matures from villain to complex anti-hero. Sam Riley plays Diaval, the crow sidekick, and nearly steals the show. My one big complaint with the film is the portrayal of Stefan. The climax was overshadowed by Stefan’s manic shenanigans during the buildup. Otherwise the film was amazing. Elle Fanning did a great job portraying the ethereal Aurora. Brenton Thwaites’s Prince Phillip was slightly too old for Elle Fanning’s Aurora. However, he was rather dashing. The film has a great twist on the “true love’s kiss” plotline and an uplifting message about redemption.
On another note, the cinematography was fantastic. The visuals pop off the screen and make the mythical land come alive. Really, I have not seen such visuals since Avatar’s Pandora. I did not see the film in 3D, but I bet it would look fantastic. More importantly, Disney finally realized that audiences crave Princess’s with greater depth. I hope next year’s live action Cinderella film is just as fantastic. If you ever tire of the run-of-the mill Princess Movies, I highly recommend this film. It is appropriate for both children and adults.
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