Maleficent: Movie Review
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Sam Riley, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville
Director: Robert Stromberg
"Let us tell an old story anew - and see how well you know it"
These are the opening words of Disney's latest Maleficent, a much anticipated dark fairytale, starring Angelina Jolie as the lead and the iconic faerie Maleficent, from the 1959 movie, Sleeping Beauty.
Maleficent lives in a world divided by two kingdoms; on one side, the magical creatures and on the other, the humans. Pure of heart and a protector of the land, Maleficent flies through the skies, ensuring harmony. One day, as a young girl, she meets the prince Stefan and falls for him. He promises to return as the budding romance grows; but as Stefan grows older, he faces another destiny; that of king and protector of his land.
Unfortunately though, that means bringing the humans into conflict with an older Maleficent (the gloriously cheek-boned Angelina Jolie) and a terrible betrayal. Slighted, Maleficent curses Stefan's first born Aurora (Fanning), signalling a darkness to rule the kingdom forever....
However, Maleficent begins to realise that she's made a dreadful mistake.....
Maleficent is an odd mix of things, a gruesome fairy tale that's extremely dark in some of its castration imagery and yet dabbles in the extremely slight and light with a plethora of CGI creatures, as well as a comedy trio of pixies.
While at times, feeling rushed, when the film stops to concentrate on its "villain", it gets pretty much most of it right. With her high angular cheekbones, piercing eyes and bright vibrant red lipstick in among the black, Jolie's whispered performance delivers the fine line between malevolent, misunderstood and mistreated. (Once it settles down from the simply shouting and wailing at the start) As she becomes more of a fairy Godmother figure to Aurora,there's bit more humour that's injected into proceedings that have been deliciously cynical so far and which feels detached from the rest of what's around. Certainly, it looks as if Jolie's been framed in every shot for a spread in a glossy magazine, with the posing and primping just right. While her arc is not exactly unpredictable, the Hollywood need to flesh out the character and their reasons is more symptomatic of the times we live in than a desire to simply leave a character black or white.
If anything, Jolie is the stand out of these proceedings, which fail to give sufficient character to those around her. Copley simply dials in a performance as Stefan, the king who becomes consumed with anger, Fanning is likeable but wishy-washy as Aurora, and the three pixies (Temple, Staunton and Manville are nothing short of comic relief brought in to keep the kids amused but which will rankle all others.)
In among this fantasy world, there's an over-reliance on the FX front with scenes of Maleficent swooping through the skies and shots of creatures feeling as if they're simply being used to show off what the designers can do, rather than adding to the world within or for the narrative. It's a shame because once again, the elements are there (even if there is yet another version of the Treebeard / Ents fight from Lord Of The Rings) - but it feels like the money was spent on the effects not on the character or story.
Maleficent is a deliberate perversion of what you may expect; an extension of Frozen's changing of the guard, a hint at the darkness behind the fairy tales and does appear to try to follow the path of the Wicked stage show and attempt to redeem one of the canon's most iconic villains (why do they always need redemption?), but, in among the sound and fury of the hollow and lacking FX-fest, it delivers a career best from Angelina Jolie. It may give us a Maleficent for the 21st century, but little else is delivered in an uneven cinematic outing.
Watch the Maleficent trailer below: