First published on The Oxford Student, see original here.
Maleficent is Disney’s latest attempt at a live action reboot, retelling the tale of the 1969 classic, Sleeping Beauty. This adaption focuses on the story’s antagonist, Maleficent, portraying her as the misunderstood villain. We are first introduced to her as a beautiful and sweet little faerie, but Maleficent grows up to be betrayed by Stefan, the man she loves, who, blinded by his greed, cuts off her wings in order to be named as the King’s successor. Heartbroken and consumed by hate, Maleficent turns to a life of revenge, placing an irrevocable curse upon Stefan’s new born daughter to prick her finger on a spindle the night before her sixteenth birthday, sending her into a deep death-like slumber that only true love’s kiss can awaken her from.
Maleficent seems unsure of what it is trying to be. Is it a tale for children or older audiences? Is it a dark tale or a comedy? Is it the story of revenge or redemption? This film didn’t even have itself figured out so what hope did I, as the viewer, have? Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the mixing of genres but there’s little integration here, just the slightly painful clashing of genres. Thus, whilst there are some very good parts to the film, there are also many not-so-good parts, which means that overall this film leaves you with the bitter taste of unfulfilled potential. There was even what seemed to be a revival of Angelina Jolie as Catwoman in her iconic black spandex one piece towards the end. Very confusing.
This lack of direction becomes especially apparent at the end of the film when the plot nosedives to altogether predictable and unimaginative finale. The film had established itself as what seemed to be a unique take on an old classic, but then it suddenly veered back towards the typical trite scenes that you’d expect from the modern Disney film. The minute that the attention is diverted away from Jolie’s Maleficent and towards Fanning’s Aurora, the film starts its slow and painful descent to a clichéd ending. This is not a reflection of Elle Fanning’s acting, but rather an unoriginal and bland script throughout the entire middle section of the film in which we basically just watch Maleficent follow Aurora around through the woods.
The film’s visual effects are rather impressive with some stunning scenery, beautiful, magical creatures and fiery action sequences. However, it is Angelina Jolie’s performance as Maleficent that is undoubtedly this film’s saving grace. She holds this film together and it is a shame that the way in which the plot develops means that she cannot continue to showcase her abilities. Maleficent is a complex character and the viewer feels an inexplicable sense of attachment to her, rather than the film itself, which is all down to Jolie.
All in all, I must admit that this film is considerably better than critics would have you believe, but that’s not to say that there aren’t some serious flaws in it too. This film wavers between really good and really bad and if it weren’t for the numerous juxtapositions in tone and genre, then this film would have been great. I suspect that kids will love this film whilst the unfortunate adults accompanying them will most likely forget that Disney ever tried to remake Sleeping Beauty.