WRITTEN BY: Linda Woolverton
DIRECTED BY: Robert Stromberg
STARRING: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley
RATING: 3.5 stars
There is no doubt Angelina Jolie is the best thing about Maleficent, but the film does have much to offer audiences in what is an interesting interpretation of Sleeping Beauty. Making his directorial debut, after working in visual effects on dozens of stunning films, Oscar-winner Robert Stromberg has created an enchanting world on film. Writer Linda Woolverton, who also wrote 2010's Alice In Wonderland and 1994's The Lion King, has depicted an origins story explaining how Maleficent became a hardened villain before re-imagining the story we thought we all knew.
Maleficent (Jolie) protects the forest full of giant tree-creatures, elves and fairies. As a young fairy, she falls in love with a poor but ambitious human named Stefan (Sharlto Copley). But when he betrays her to become the king, Maleficent is changed forever and decides to take revenge against the traitor. Years later, she places a curse on Stefan's daughter, Aurora (Elle Fanning), ruling that at the age of 16 the girl will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into a deep sleep, only ever to be awaken by true love's kiss.
Without giving away too much of the plot, the film focuses on parental love for a child, as opposed to the fairytale romance and notions of “true love” we so often see in Disney films, although that is there too. Purists may be shocked by how the story unfolds, but it is at least a unique take on the beloved tale. There are unfortunately some plot holes that are too bothersome to let slide, but the target audience are unlikely to notice.
Maleficent suits Jolie perfectly and she obviously had a lot of fun playing the betrayed fairy, including embracing the outrageous costume and make-up. Fanning is sweet, although hardly memorable. In contrast, Jolie's daughter, Vivienne, has a minor role as a the younger Aurora and charmed in her few minutes of screen time with her mother. Sam Riley provided some laughs as Diaval, along with the fairies, but the film could have done with some more laughs. Copley was also solid and was at his best when his character was angry and vulnerable.
Maleficent may scare some very young children, but most should enjoy the adventurous narrative.