Jolie is reason 'Malificent' takes flight
Let's be honest, in the world of Disney Princesses, Sleeping Beauty is a dud.
We can see why little girls would want to be a mermaid like Ariel, a warrior like Mulan, even a dance attendee like Cinderella. But who desires to stab herself with a sewing needle and take an extended nap as one’s special skill set?
Like most earlier Disney films, it's the antagonist who's the real star of the show. And “Maleficent” has always been a captivating nemesis for our tuckered tiara-wearer.
Angelina Jolie, perhaps not of this Earth, is perfect for the part, reminding us that she is no mere actress, but a capital-letter Movie Star. She looks, at turns, fierce, majestic, vulnerable and stunning - and always captivating when on the screen. In fact, it is perhaps only Jolie who edges this film over into recommended viewing.
Robert Stromberg is no stranger to such fantasy-soaked vistas as a visual effects artist since the late 80s (works include “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “Oz the Great and Powerful”). He obviously has an eye for sumptuous eye-candy and the world he creates here is one of dark beauty.
The tale itself is a revisionist take on the “Sleeping Beauty” fable (taking a road that was paved by Broadway’s “Wicked”). It’s shot through the lens of post-feminist empowerment, making the King the true villain of the tale, and altering the “true love’s kiss” that was originally just a spell-breaking peck from a prince in the original.
The plot is a revisionist telling of the classic fairy tale. “Maleficent” is given the Wicked treatment and we learn the reasons behind her villainy. This is a post-feminist telling of the story and the true villain is the King, the prince is a useless pretty face and true love's kiss has a very different meaning than it did in the original tale.
We first meet Maleficent as a young forest nymph, betrayed by her love Stefan (ultimately played by Sharlto Copley), an opportunist looking to claim the throne.
He shears her of her glorious wings and eventually ascends to the throne. Maleficent curses Stefan’s baby daughter upon her birth while Stefan’s guilt slowly claws at him.
There’s no real question as to where all the plot points will end, as it is fairly obvious and one wishes that “Maleficent” had the audacity to play it darker, but that would be far too much to ask for a Disney franchise feature.
And despite the fine acting from supporters Imelda Staunton, Leslie Mann and Juno Temple as the three fairies who raise the young Princess Aurora (played by Elle Fanning), none can escape from under Jolie’s shadow cast over the film. For it is Jolie who is the real reason “Maleficent” takes flight, and is the kiss that awakens this cinematic sleeping beauty.
It’s been four years since she’s graced the screen (apparently still licking her wounds from “The Tourist”), and here’s hoping that we won’t have to wait that long again to see her in a role that plays to her strengths as much as the fantastical fable does.