Maleficent review by Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
I doubt there is a child in the Western world who does not know the traditional story of Sleeping Beauty, the beautiful princess who is cursed to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and sleep for a hundred years. One can only assume that it is respect for the success and artistry of the 1959 Disney classic animation that prevented today’s film makers from simply remaking the original story (although the new edition of Cinderella due for release next year suggests otherwise), whatever their reasons however they opted for a re-telling of the original instead.
There has been a reasonable amount of success with revamped and darker fairy tales in the cinema recently, whilst the trend to paint traditional villains as heroes has become increasingly popular since the first Shrek and Despicable Me features; in Maleficent Disney present us with the evil witch – now a fairy – from their original animation, but tell the story from her side.
Wronged by her human lover the powerful fairy Maleficent retreats into her enchanted world, surrounding herself, and all the fairies who remain beside her, in a wall of thorns. But when she learns that her lover, now the King of the human world that borders hers, has married and is celebrating the birth of a daughter she attends the Christening intending to give the child a “gift” alongside those of beauty and grace bestowed upon her by the other fairies. The curse, that will leave the girl in a death like sleep until true love’s first kiss awakens her sticks to the standard Sleeping Beauty story, however, when the child is entrusted into the care of three fairies who, it seem, know nothing about childcare, Maleficent steps in intending only to prolong the child’s life until she reaches sixteen and her curse can take effect.
Angelina Jolie is brilliantly cast as Maleficent, the costuming only emphasizing the strength of her performance; she is both dark and enigmatic, her presence utterly all consuming and her command of the character worthy of some of her best roles. The script, along with the narrative, gives her very little to work with however, with some lines leaving a cheap almost pantomime taste in the mouth. The moments of true greatness all shamefully reserved for those that are almost carbon copies of scenes from the animated original.
It’s not all bad, Jolie’s performance makes the film entertaining enough though the presence of the hamster cheeked Elle Fanning as a Sleeping Beauty who is already dead behind the eyes is rather off-putting; the visuals attest to the greatness of Disney Corp however and offer, on multiple occasions, a beautiful homage to the craftsmanship of the original.
Though I may be biased as Sleeping Beauty has always been one of my absolute favourite Disney classics I have to admit I was blown away by the magic and, to use the word a second time, artistry of this re-branded version. My highest praise goes to the special effects artists behind this otherwise average family film, even if ultimately, it just made me want to come home and watch the original again.