Cary, NC – Maleficent, like Alice in Wonderland before it, is Disney’s latest attempt to re-create their classic animated movies, albeit in live-action form.This film is taking the point of view of Maleficent from the 1959 animated classic Sleeping Beauty. Along the way there are numerous references to the original movie, both visually and story wise.
Angelina Jolie in particular stands out as a perfect live-action version of the title character, wearing those iconic horns as if she’s always had them.
But even with great source material and a lead actress that is relishing her chance to play one of the most recognizable villains out there, Maleficent can’t quite make this re-imagining worth it.
In the original animated film, Maleficent was the big baddie of the movie. She was the one who cursed the princess to a never-ending sleep for no reason other than she’s just plain evil. And it works. Like most fairy tales, the hero or heroine is the epitome of good, and the villain is the epitome of evil. Maleficent also has one of the most distinct visual trademarks of any other Disney villain with her horns, as well as one of the most diabolical laughs in all of film. Also, she can turn into a dragon. Awesome.
Turns Villain Into Hero, But Why?
Why then, does Disney decide to make this classic villain into a sympathetic and wounded hero?
The musical Wicked is another example of this, but that play was just a re-telling of The Wizard of Oz from the Wicked Witch’s point of view. Maleficent, on the other hand, is a complete re-tooling of the fairy tale.
Here, the character of Maleficent starts as a powerful fairy protecting her magical lands from armies of men who are trying to destroy it. Eventually she meets and falls for a human boy, Stefon, and they begin a whirlwind and taboo romance. Soon though, in an act of greed, Stefon steals Maleficent’s wings in a bid to become king and Maleficent vows revenge. It’s a move that reduces one of the most iconic female villains into a girl desperate to get revenge on her ex-boyfriend. C’mon Disney, you’re better than that.
Jolie Is Great, But Can’t Save Film
As I mentioned earlier, Jolie nails it. She is absolutely PERFECT casting, and she does the best with what she’s given. I just can’t believe the filmmakers decided to make her the hero when Jolie excels at playing bad. The few scenes where she does get to go full villain, Jolie gives off a smile that is just so disarming and evil in the best way possible. I couldn’t help but think how much more fun the movie would have been if they had let her have more fun as well.
In fact, it seems that the movie as a whole would have been more enjoyable as just a straight live action remake of the animated film. Not only do they have a perfect Maleficent in Jolie, but they actually cast a perfect Sleeping Beauty as well with Elle Fanning (Super 8, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). What a shame.
Skip It, Watch The Original Instead
In the end, the biggest complaint I have with Maleficent is that it’s one giant wasted opportunity. Not a terrible movie by any means, but very middle of the road.
Jolie almost makes the trip to the theater worth it, but in the end I say save your money and watch the original instead.
Jordan Hunt covers the movies for CaryCitizen. Read more Movie Reviews.