Review: Maleficent (2014)

May 31, 2014 1:02 pm

Needless to say, spoiler alert ahead for all those who have yet to see the film.

Since seeing the first of the trailers for Maleficent a few months ago, I’ve been beyond excited to see the film. Strange, considering the fact that I found the original Sleeping Beauty film to be rather dull, to say the least. I’m apparently not alone in thinking this, though the one thing that people seemed to love about the original film was its villain, the aforementioned Maleficent. To be fair, what’s not to love? She is pretty much one of the most bad ass villains Disney has ever created. She loves what she does, and there’s something audiences really love about evil for the sake of evil.

So of course, there were a lot of people worrying about how this new film would handle their beloved villain. What sort of back story would they give her? Would they make her suddenly sympathetic? Would she lose her bad assery?

Well… yes and no.

I must admit that even I was a little disappointed with the beginning of this film. Not because of the visuals or the acting- not too surprisingly, the film looks pretty decent from the off. We are introduced to little Maleficent, a fairy child who seems to act as guardian of what I like to call the Land of Enchanted Communism. She comes across a young peasant boy, the future King Stefan, and the two embark on a friendship that leads to a young romance. Stefan disappears after they share ‘true love’s kiss’ to pursue his fortune. At this point I’m sitting in the cinema rolling my eyes. Of course, it would be a man that turned her evil. Luckily, after a kind of admittedly epic battle with tree giants and tree dragons, the king of the human kingdom is defeated in battle and is looking for an heir, specifically anyone who could defeat Maleficent. Stefan takes this opportunity to return to Maleficent, and attempts to kill her in her sleep, instead taking her wings.

Cue eye rolling. Men, eh?

So this is what turns Maleficent towards evil. In all fairness, this turned out better than I thought. I’m going to be bitter for a moment and compare this to Oz, the Great and Powerful. In that film, Theodora becomes the Wicked Witch because she was bitten by the love bug. Weak. Maleficent turned to evil because her wings were hella epic, and they were stolen. She would have still done good things and protected her land without Stefan’s love. So even though it’s a bit of a weak storyline, points for that.

From this point on, it mostly just continues the Sleeping Beauty story, with a few changes. Maleficent’s trusty crow is now Diaval, a crow-man of sorts who is bound to be her servant after Maleficent saved his life. He’s pretty cool, I’m not gonna lie. Another main change is the absolute ineptitude of the three fairies, now a trio of slightly ditsy oddballs. I didn’t have much of an attachment to the fairies in the original film, but I think there are at least three separate occasions in the film where Knotgrass, Thistlewit and Flittle almost kill Aurora. There’s a scene where Maleficent has to save her from FALLING OFF OF A CLIFF because they are bickering.

One of the bigger improvements in this film is the character of Aurora. In the original, I can’t really say much about her. She sings a bit, cries, then falls asleep. While this Aurora isn’t the most highly developed character, I can actually see why people would like her. She’s fun loving, curious, not afraid to get her hands dirty, and knows what she wants from life when the opportunity arises.

maleficentNow, for major spoiler alert on the ending of the film. Of course, the prince has only had one scene with Aurora. He is not going to lift the curse. If you have watched the film, and seen the build up between the relationship between Aurora and Maleficent, you can see from a mile off who is actually going to break the curse. I knew it was coming, I’d seen it before. Do you know what? It was still the best thing ever.

I’m going to take a moment to say here, the relationship between Maleficent and Aurora is the relationship that I wanted between Elsa and Anna in Frozen. One of the main faults in that film is the fact that the two sisters spend perhaps one and a half scenes together after their childhood. That is not enough for them to suddenly declare ‘no seriously, I still love you because… sisters’. Maleficent and Aurora build a relationship. You see Maleficent go from this bitter woman who wants nothing but revenge, to a caring individual who will literally create dragons to protect this girl she has been watching over her whole life. That’s a relationship worth watching.

Yes, this film has massive flaws. It’s a Disney film, it’s going to have massive flaws. However, the relationship between our leading ladies is not one of them. The plot has pretty damn good pacing, the effects are rather lovely, and if we ignore the almost murderous comedic relief, the tone is extremely enjoyable. I don’t even need to go into how amazing Angelina Jolie is. You’ve seen the trailers, you already knew that she was going to be the highlight of the film, and she truly was. Am I a little disappointed that she wasn’t evil for the sake of being evil? No, not at all. I’m a sucker for films like this, I enjoyed getting a back story for Elphaba in Wicked and if more films like this come out, I’ll probably enjoy seeing what has to be said then.

Hardly the film of the decade, or even the film of the year, but having had to sit through countless films that are trying to become feminist icons, this film could have done a lot worse and I’m certainly glad I saw it.

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