Magnificent Maleficent bringing Sleeping Beauty back to life
Maleficent’s character made its debut in Disney’s cartoon film, Sleeping Beauty (1959). Since then, those who admired the demon-witch could only revisit her either in their memories or in that classic cartoon movie. However, this year, Disney brings the influential witch back to life, in Maleficent, and reintroduces her with a twist.
This time, the viewers will get to see Aurora’s or Sleeping Beauty’s (as she is more commonly known) story through Maleficent’s point of view – how she turned evil and why she became Aurora’s antagonist.
Angelina Jolie stars as Maleficent and does a wonderful job with her acting skills. One wonders the dexterity that Jolie possesses to play diverse characters such as Lara Croft (Tomb Raider), Commander Francesca “Franky” Cook (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), Jane Smith (Mr and Mrs Smith), and Fox (Wanted). Movie critics believe that her role as ‘Maleficent’ has put her back on top, and after watching the movie, I have no trouble accepting that.
Director Robert Stromberg and producer Joe Roth reveal the story in a very creative and unique way. According to the new plot, Maleficent was once a fairy, with wings, who lived peacefully in the kingdom of fairies. But, she fell in love with a human and that’s where everything went wrong.
Stefan, the human she fell in love with, aspired to become a king and was very ambitious. Therefore, when the ruling king, who had faced defeat in a battle against Maleficent, ordered Stefan to kill her, Stefan saw this as an opportunity to fulfil his dreams. However, when the time came, he was unable to slay the fairy he loved. So, he decided to cut off Maleficent’s wings instead, which he could use to show the king that the wicked witch was no more.
Where Stefan showed compassion towards Maleficent, she thought otherwise, and that is where the chord of contention struck. Upon becoming king, and later having a baby girl, King Stefan invited everyone to a ceremony for his daughter, Aurora. Seeking revenge, Maleficent attended the ceremony as well, uninvited, and cast a spell upon Aurora, according to which the princess would fall into eternal sleep on her 16th birthday. The antidote to the spell is a true love’s kiss, of course – classic Disney. However, to know who this true love will be, you need to see the movie yourself, because in comparison to what we know about the Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent, the retold story is very different.
After the spell is cast, Stefan, as protection, sends Aurora away to live in a forest with fairies. However, Maleficent keeps an eye on Aurora and finally meets her on her 15th birthday. Aurora, at this instance, believes her to be the fairy godmother. Interestingly, the bond between Maleficent and Aurora grows stronger, so much so that Maleficent decides to remove the curse but is unable to do so when she tries. It is then that the fairies reveal the truth about Maleficent and her ‘wickedness’ to Aurora.
What makes Maleficent an interesting watch is Jolie’s on-screen appearance as the wicked witch. Where computer effects have created dragons, walking trees, fairies and Maleficent’s green smoke, it was perhaps Jolie’s physical appearance that made her a great fit for the role; with her long slender body, her wide eyes akin to that of the original Maleficent and a smile, used to stir the audience into believing in her wickedness, there is none who could have done a better job.
Stromberg and Roth did an absolutely brilliant job with Jolie’s costume and props. Aurora’s wardrobe, however, was kept simple. This was done to give Maleficent, the leading character, more depth even as an antagonist.
One feature of the movie that I do not particularly like was the fact that despite being a fictional film about fairies and fire breathing dragons, the movie lacked colour in terms of setting and location. Normally, in a Disney production, the forest is greener than you would see in reality, fairies wearing brightly coloured wardrobe and kings sitting in surreal looking palaces. But in this case, Maleficent, was kept away from the fantasy world of Disney.
Another thing that I was not able to figure out while watching the movie was, is Maleficent unable to gauge her own strength, because when she can bring trees to life and use her powers to defeat armies, then why did she need a sidekick, Diaval - a crow that could shape shift into humans and animals? Was there a need to add Diaval to the film at all? Was Diaval used to complete the ‘every villain needs a sidekick’ cliché? I wonder why Maleficent couldn’t do the work on her own, especially since she seemed more than capable of doing so.
As far as the characters are concerned, Jolie’s portrayal of Maleficent and Elle Fanning’s character of Princess Aurora were up to the mark; however, casting Sharlto Copley for the role of Stefan was perhaps a mistake because his character didn’t blend with the overall theme of the movie. Unfortunately, I thought his British accent didn’t seem to work well with the rest of the movie setting, or the persona of the character he was trying to portray.
Despite the few drawbacks, Maleficent is a brilliant movie. Disney has successfully managed to bring one of its own stories back to life. If you have seen Sleeping Beauty, which I am sure you have, this is definitely a must-watch.
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