Robert Stromberg has his directorial debut with Maleficent, a live-action take on the story of Maleficent, the iconic villain of the classic animated film, Sleeping Beauty. Transporting viewers into the enchanted world of far, far away, it is further proof that Disney has entered a new era of empowering characters and fuller plot lines.
There had never been peace between the kingdoms; the humans’ were after greater power in the land, while the forest kingdom was comfortable in their land of freedom and unity. Maleficent, a young fairy, had grown up a happy and free spirited child, who upon a chance meeting of a young prince, was brought into a world of bliss like no other. As the years of childish joy passed, Maleficent suffers a ruthless betrayal that turned her once pure heart to stone, and leaves her seeking revenge and turning to vengeance, cursing the human kingdom’s newborn princess to a trajectory paralleling that of her own ordeal. Secretly being raised by three fairies and kept unaware of her true heritage, the princess grows up under the careful, yet distant, watch of Maleficent but it is not long before it is realised that the key to peace between the kingdoms might just lie in the hands of the young girl.
Re-imaginings of classic fairytales, a popular genre of late, is at its highest point with this stunning piece of film. Angelina Jolie was born to play the role of Maleficent; her immense versatility brought a powerful intelligence and depth to the character, and gave her the chance to prove her strengths as an actress. Her portrayal brought out the sympathetic side of her and her performance is so playfully captivating that never is the audience’s attention drawn from her vociferous presence.
Elle Fanning plays Aurora, the princess whose days before the curse takes its full effect are numbered. Despite being limited to Aurora’s blessing of perpetual joy, Fanning brings an element of ethereal humanity to the role that is acts as a great improvement on the dull and insipid character of 1959’s Sleeping Beauty.
The supporting performances of Sharlto Copley as the greedy betrayer of Maleficent and Sam Riley as Diaval, Maleficent’s faithful servant, are both equally affecting, the latter bringing humour to the film while the former juxtaposing with a haunting intensity. Juno Temple, Imelda Staunton and Lesley Manville are charming as the three fairies whose care Aurora is left in.
Linda Woolverton wrote the character of Maleficent to have a cleverly formed history that captures a never before seen side to her, without losing the famously vengeful side to the iconic villainess. Rarely is there a female character in children’s films that does not fall victim to the clichés of fairytales, but with Maleficent, Woolverton has built a character that both undergoes a development of character and is not limited to the typical bounds of good against evil.
Yet flawed by the minutia of inconsistencies and imperfections, the cast and crew of this stunning film have put their talents to good use in order to produce a wondrous and visually stimulating film. Not only pandering to the interests of young viewers, the compelling underlying message is evident to a wider audience, making Maleficent a heart-warming viewing experience to be enjoyed by people of all ages.