Modern Disney continues to hack away at the classic version with a combination of chainsaws, hatchets and machetes following in the path of Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman and Red Riding Hood comes Maleficent which is where they get the live action fantasy right.
The classic 1959 Sleeping Beauty story is turned upside down. The story starts with young fairy Maleficent soaring above the Forest Kingdom acting in perfect harmony with nature and the creatures around her. She meets and befriends Stefan an awkward human boy but he eventually heads off to the royal court to be with the other humans.
The Humans come to conquer the Forest Kingdom and are turned back lead by an adult Maleficent (Angelina Jolie). The grown Stefan (Sharlto Copley) now an aid to the king seeing a chance to become the current Kings successor comes to Maleficent as a friend betrays her then returns to the court for his reward. Maleficent seeks her revenge by cursing the now King Stefan's newborn daughter Aurora declaring that she will prick her finger on her 16th birthday and fall into a deep permanent sleep. Fearing the curse King Stefan sends his daughter into hiding with the three pixies Fittle, Thistletwit and Knotgrass (Lesley Maniville, Juno Temple and Imelda Staunton) from where she is not to return to the court until the day after her 16th birthday.
The writing duo of Linda Woolverton and Charles Perrault do an excellent job dismantling a classic tale. The perspective is changed, the central character is changed they alter the relationship between Maleficent and the princess Aurora ( Elle Fanning). All of their tinkering is successful so much so that they change the rooting interest of the viewer.
The technical aspects of the film set it apart. The visual effects, Art department, Makeup department and Anna B. Sheppard's costume design all work seamless together to bring this world together. The feast for the eyes when natures army rises from the earth to battle the humans when they first come to conquer the Forest Kingdom. The bright colours that fill the screen displaying Malficents power to the display of the different and odd creatures in the day to day life in the forest. The make up department and costume design work on Maleficent alone leads the viewer to believe that the character sprung right out of the animated story and into a live action production.
Angelina Jolie commands the screen in the title role. She has moments when she is vulnerable and defenseless. But fort he most part she is in total control of the events in the forest and her influence is strongly felt in the human court. Lesley Maniville, Juno Temple and Imelda Staunton as the three dimwitted pixies that take charge of Aurora are a constant source of comic relief. The interaction between the three almost takes on a three stooges type feel. All three actresses pay their roles well. Elle Fanning turns in another solid performs as Aurora. A key scene where she brings Maleficent out from the shadows mirrors and earlier one where Maleficent did the same for Stefan and her interpretation of Maleficent always watching over her sparked an unforgettable reaction by Jolie. Sam Riley tackles the role of Diaval well as he is constantly tormented by Maleficent but maintains his loyal sidekick shapeshifting Raven role.
Maleficent is an excellent retelling of a classic tale that has been told by bedsides for years and the original film passed down for 5 generations. Even though the production team alter the material they still honour the source producing a memorable story that I highly recommend.
**** out of 4
Maleficent | Robert Stromberg | U.S.A. /U.K. | 2014 | 97 Minutes.
Tags: Fairies, Forest, Curse, King, Princess, Prince, Kingdom, Betrayal, Revenge, True Love.