Rachel Smith ‘16 / Entertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The highly anticipated reboot of the 1959 Disney classic, Sleeping Beauty, hits theaters on May 30 but what should audiences expect from Maleficent? First off, don’t think you are walking into the fairy tale all about a perfect princess finding her prince. This film spins the story and allows us to look at it from Maleficent’s, played humorously by Angelina Jolie, strong and vengeful point of view.
It starts off with breathtaking cinematography that creates a world of enchantment and beauty for a young Maleficent, rightfully played by Isobelle Molloy. She is a fairy, living in the moors with the other enchanted creatures. We follow her as she flies through the moors for far too long for the opening sequence. Still, you will be impressed. They kept true to the fairy tale theme by having it narrated throughout and setting a tone for the scenes.
Maleficent is sweet and gentle and very important to the creatures of the moors. They introduce a young boy trespassing into the moors. The boy is named Stephan from the kingdom. The two worlds stay divided to avoid war but it is inevitable as time goes on. Maleficent and Stephan become friends and as they grow there friendship turns to romance, as all movies tell us, and they share what Stephan calls, “true loves kiss.”
Long story short, a war breaks out and Maleficent is protector of the moors thus she is at the forefront of the battle. She wins the fight but the king is determined to take her out. He promises the crown to anyone who kills her. Stephan chooses power over love and instead of killing her; he steals what is most precious to Maleficent. Doesn’t Stephan know, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”? Well, he quickly finds out.
Maleficent turns the bright and peaceful moors dark with her hatred. Her fairy gowns turn to the black cloaks and she turns a twig into her iconic staff. The costume design is perfect from the prosthetics Jolie wears to the grand cloaks and horns she accessorizes with. The only time the designers failed was with a pair of leather pants they have Maleficent wear for the final fight scene. She is a witch in a fairy tale and wears a gown for the entire movie but put a woman in a fight scene, she must wear tight leather pants. Sorry, feminist button was pushed into overdrive.
Maleficent is in full evil mode when she finds her black crow servant, Diaval, played by Sam Riley. Twist on the classic, they make the crow a man and he is arguably the most likeable character in the film because he acts as her conscience. Her magic turns him from animal of her choice to companion depending on her needs.
The first time Jolie has actual lines in the movie comes from the familiar scene of her cursing baby Aurora at the castle. They used the speech from the original word for word with a few important additions to the end. Though she looks the part, the monologue doesn’t come naturally and feels forced. The fairy godmothers are directed the same way as the original that they crowd around the baby to protect her but they are misused throughout the film. For some reason they changed the names of the fairies and made them the joke of the film.
Jolie has many quick, cute jokes throughout so they didn’t need them purely for humor. They could have more effectively added to the story. The green fairy is miscast as young and beautiful where they are all supposed to be older and wise. This might be a reboot but small changes like these weren’t necessary.
Baby Aurora is not afraid of the terrifying Maleficent, nor is the toddler version, which is played by Jolie’s actual daughter, Vivienne. This detail was blown up in the press so the audience knew to look for it but it completely takes you out of the characters. All you see is Angelina Jolie dressed up and hugging her and Brad Pitt’s super child. Vivienne fits the part perfectly and it’s a sweet moment of the princess not having prejudice towards this creature woman but you just know too much about them to stay in the story.
Finally we meet the grown up version of Aurora, played by Elle Fanning. Sure she’s blonde and pretty and did well with the part but Aurora could have been cast better. You’ll live with it though. She and Maleficent meet for the millionth time but finally are confronted with a formal introduction. I wish they made Maleficent’s eyes glow green, it just would have made her coming out of the shadows so much more dramatic. They finally come face to face and silly Aurora thinks Maleficent is her fairy godmother. Oh teenagers, how naïve they are.
Maleficent goes along with the part of “fairy godmother” instead of “fairy, I have been planning to kill you since you were born mother” and watches over Aurora as she plays in the moors with all the enchanted creatures. The moors get brighter the closer Aurora and Maleficent become. You feel Maleficent’s heart mending after Stephan broke it all those years before. This will hit home with mothers watching the film with their kids.
Aurora asks if she can move to the moors and live with Maleficent, “so we can take care of each other.” Jolie doesn’t have many lines in this movie, just reaction shots and at this moment you can se from her beautifully crafted face that she loves this girl that she cursed and thinks she can protect her there. She agrees and Aurora is on the way home to ask her “aunts” (fairies) if she can move to the moors. On the way home the writers sprinkle in the prince.
This is not a happily ever after story but you cannot have Sleeping Beauty without a prince. They meet for 5 seconds and then when Aurora is in a death like sleep, he is brought to the castle to deliver true loves kiss. I get it, you had to make this decision to bring home the overarching theme but they needed to give that story more time and attention. He also does not come back to fight the final battle at the end. Prince Philip acted as a garnish to a beautiful dinner; as nice as it looks, it doesn’t taste as good as the presentation.
King Stephan gets crazier and crazier with paranoia throughout the film. His wife randomly dies without reason or warning and he is too wrapped up with his obsession of taking out Maleficent to care. This lack of attention is what gets Aurora to touch the spindle of the spinning wheel in the first place. You won’t like him and you won’t care about him throughout the movie.
The overall theme of the story is wonderful. The directing and cinematography is flawless. The casting is spot on with Angelina Jolie, little Angelina Jolie and her bird friend but everyone else felt random. The flow of the story seemed rushed and the changes they made weren’t all necessary. The line between remaking the story and staying true to the classic was walked too closely in the middle. They needed to pick a side and go with it. The film is 97 minutes long, which seems just right but they could have used more time to elongate the story points and give the audience time to be engaged and understand.
The idea was there but the execution just wasn’t on the same level. It is visually beautiful to watch and a classic story so you will enjoy it overall, but it just could have been better.
Overall Grade: C+