Angelina, Angelina, Angelina. That was the only thing I was excited for when I went to go see Disney's re-telling of Sleeping Beauty. Beauty is one of my personal all-time favorite animated features from the Mouse House, so I was curious as to why they were going to pull the curtain back on one of their most iconic villains. The trailers debuted, and worrisome thoughts came to mind. Would Maleficent suffer from Alice in Wonderland syndrome, or will it be a nice chunk of gaudy, summer time goodness?
In the first few moments of Maleficent, we meet the younger version of the title character, a curious, horned and winged protector of the Moors, a fairy land that borders our own. A young boy named Stefan stumbles upon Maleficent, and, instead of a war breaking out, they become friends. As time goes on, they seem a little more than friends, actually (Maleficent and Stefan sitting in a tree...), and young Stefan becomes bearded Shartlo Copley.
Stefan's ambition to become king, however, overshadows his ability to love, and he preys upon Maleficent's weaknesses. Stefan removes Maleficent's wings, and he becomes the king we know him to be in the classic 1959 animated film. What a bastard! From then on Maleficent becomes dark, and the Sleeping Beauty that we know kicks off for a while.
King Stefan has a daughter named Aurora, and Maleficent curses her to prick her finger on a spinning wheel. Aurora is taken into the woods and raised by three fairies until her sixteenth birthday, and they are played by Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, and Juno Temple. We all know that part of the story, but Maleficent takes us on a different path. We are treated to the slapstick-y goings on inside the cottage where Aurora is raised, but we are also shown how Maleficent is always standing guard. She's not just the poised drag queen that we know her to be. There's a gentleness in Jolie's performance as Maleficent, and that mixture of poisonous evil and justifiable evil is given a sweet dash of warm. Roll your eyes all you want, but it's very compelling.
Jolie is a goddess that walks among us, sure. She's the kind of movie star that seems soooo out of reach that no matter what comes her way, she will always be huge. The tinge of sweetness combined with the sheer relish of this role is enough for me to encourage you seeing it.
Disney has taken a different route with how they portray their women. Thank GOD. It can be found even in Enchanted, and it was definitely enhanced by the surprise ending of last year's mega-blockbuster Frozen. Some would argue that the endings of certain threads are too similar, but I would disagree. If you've seen both Frozen and Maleficent, you know what I'm talking about--I don't want to give anything away to the 11 people that haven't seen it.
It comes back to Angelina Jolie. Is Maleficent perfect? Of course not. I thought the fairy segments were kind of wobby (even though I ADORE all three of them and would consider permitting a Hocus Pocus remake starring Staunton, Manville and Temple), and the level of violence kind of shocked me. Some of that seemed a bit too scary for the target audience, bloodless or not. Jolie is having a great time playing the girl with the horns, and her enthusiasm just drips off the screen. The scene where she curses Aurora is just decadently wicked.
She's fucking fabulous.