Dir: Robert Stromberg
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Brenton Thwaites, Juno Temple, Imelda Staunton, and Lesley Manville
Synopsis: A vindictive fairy is driven to curse an infant princess only to realize the child may be the only one who can restore peace.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
It is a common thing in Hollywood now to retell classic stories from our childhood and give them a new take. Whether it be a gritty or realistic one, or even a total retelling of the story. In the case of Maleficent, it is not just a retelling but also a look at the point of view from the “villain.” The reason why I say “villain” is because Maleficent makes the title character, Maleficent (Jolie), a sympathetic character.
The start of the movie plays as an origin story for Maleficent. We see her at a young age, as the narrator – even telling us this is a story we never knew – tells us the magical world is not on the best terms with the human one. Nevertheless, Maleficent befriends and eventually falls in love with a human, Stefan (Copley). We see them as they grow and were told eventually Stefan stopped coming and worked his way into working in the castle for the king. With the king falling ill, and taking a beating from Maleficent and the other magical creatures, Stefan finds a way to become the king but the catch is he has to kill the woman he was once in love with. Finding not able to do it he takes something else from her, her wings.
The rest of the story you can probably guess; Stefan becomes king, Maleficent becomes evil, curses the baby Aurora, etc. Where the story twists is when Maleficent begins to feel sympathy for Aurora, and becomes her unlikely protector since her official fairy guardians Flittle (Maville), Knotgrass (Staunton), and Thistletwit (Temple) are incompetent.
Now I will admit, I was a bit hesitant about Maleficent because it looked like it might suffer from Snow White and the Huntsman-syndrome. The movie is great looking for the most part. Although it should not be too much of a surprise since the director is not only a first time director but an Oscar winner for Special Effects, Richard Stromberg (Alice in Wonderland, Avatar). Stromberg knows how to make a scene look bright and vibrant but also dark and moody. Needless to say, he knows how to make a scene look cool but going back to Snow White and the Huntsman-syndrome, sometimes all the scene is, is just a pretty looking scene or cool wallpaper.
Now that’s not a knock on the special effects, like I said, a lot of is great to look at. But, even with a movie that has ton of special effects, it can not just rely on that, we need the story and even though the concept of Maleficent seems like a good, the movie sometimes falls flat on that end. Next to some of the effects, the best thing about the movie is Jolie’s Maleficent.
Jolie gives a great performance as usual. She displays the right amount of emotion ranging from pain, envy to sadness, but in reality, this is a redemption story for Maleficent. Having her heart broken and then cursing Stefan’s daughter Aurora (Fanning) to then feeling sorry for Aurora. Maleficent might be the best character in the movie, although that isn’t really saying much, when all the other characters seem either one-dimensional or are just not that interesting. The other best character is probably her minion Diaval played by Sam Riley, who gives a solid performance.
Elle Fanning’s Aurora doesn’t really have much to do. Really all her performance is smiling a lot. She does have some moments to do other than smile but it’s kind of a waste of Fanning’s ability.
Sharlto Copley’s Stefan will probably divide fans but needless to say, he’s not the King Stefan we knew in Sleeping Beauty. Also, the dark tone moments come from him and his interactions either with himself or with Maleficent. Copley is a great actor but just like Fanning, his ability is only limited to what the script and director wants.
The comedy here is mostly left to the fairies Flittle (Maville), Knotgrass (Staunton), and Thistletwit (Temple). Although there is some humor with magical creatures, Maleficent and Diaval having their moments too.
All in all, Maleficent is a great concept but doesn’t really pack the punch you want it to. Even the twists to the story aren’t great considering you might see some coming or just don’t pack the emotional punch I think the creative team thought they would. There are some pretty things to look at but Jolie and Riley make, or at least try, to make the movie mean something more.
3.5 out of 5