Apparently all disturbingly good-looking villains must now wear horned headdresses
“Maleficent” is clearly rooted in Disney’s classic “Sleeping Beauty,” and it is sure to evoke childhood memories. This is a tactic that works for the movie and against it. The story begins with a young Maleficent, a fairy child who lives happily in the magical realm of the Moors. She develops a friendship with a young Stephan (yes that Stephan) from the neighboring human kingdom.
So, how does this kind fairy turn into a powerful villain? Without giving any spoilers, I’ll just say well-worn tropes are used, which is a little disappointing. Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of Maleficent, however, is remarkable and makes up for the rather cliché storytelling. I have to wonder how many times she watched the animated movie to prepare for the role. She is magnificent in her villainy, but she also manages to blend moments of humor and humanity into her character as she interacts with the sickeningly sweet Aurora, played by Elle Fanning, and her faithful raven, Diaval, whom Sam Riley gives human form.
Sharto Copley plays the adult Stephan and demonstrates what a life of hatred and greed will do to a man. Much like Maleficent, he becomes trapped by his own acts of vengeance, costing him both his family and his sanity. He is nothing like the animated character, and he instills feelings of pity and disgust in the audience.
Like the animated film, three fairies agree to raise Aurora. I must admit to some personal bias here. The fairies in “Sleeping Beauty” were the characters I enjoyed most as a child. The fairies in “Maleficent” seem to be plot devices who appear for comic relief and additional CGI. Just think of women playing the Three Stooges and you get the idea. They have no character development, and I highly question if they ever develop feelings for their human charge. Imelda Staunton, Leslie Manville, and Juno Temple deserve better.
Overall, I give “Maleficent” a B. The story was a little disappointing in parts, but the acting and special effects are worth watching. In the end, I’m not sure if “Maleficent” departed too far from the original animated film or not far enough.