I truly didn’t want to go see this film. I thought it was a horrible idea when it was announced, but the trailers and how striking Angelina Jolie looked as Maleficent had me looking forward to it…until I started to read what they’d done to the character. So I walked out of the theater. I wasn’t mad. I wasn’t entertained. It just sort of bizarrely happened.
The reason why I’m not angry over the complete turning on its head of the Sleeping Beauty story is that this story bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Walt Disney animated classic. The changes made to the story take it so far afield from Disney’s best-in my view-film that it becomes another movie entirely. It’s dealing with the Sleeping Beauty story, but in a way so altered it makes Wicked look like the appendix to Wizard of Oz.
It’s as if Disney decided they wanted to take their greatest villain and make a princess out of her. Maleficent is only really evil (and the movie only really good) during Aurora’s iconic christening/cursing. It’s the only time you get an unhinged, hateful, crazed villain: the one that the trailers promise you. I will give the movie this: that particular scene WAS the promise this movie could have delivered because it was like Disney animated magic come alive.
The fault for the movie’s shortcomings also can’t be laid at the feet of Angelina Jolie, who plays the heck out of the character. She does the best with what she was given and the promise in that one scene shows you that she could have given a lot more if they’d let her.
The true villain of the piece is Aurora’s father. He’s not the kindly, portly man from the cartoon. He’s a greedy, grasping social climber, intent on improving his lot in life. He meets Maleficent as a child (btw if there was one more minute of Kid Maleficent, I was going claw my face off) and they fall in love. More, she falls in love with him and he drifts off to focus on improving his station.
Maleficent grows to become the protector of “The Moors”: a faerie land adjacent to the kingdom in which Stefan (Copley/Aurora’s father) lives. It’s populated by creatures that look like odd crosses between troll dolls and 1980’s Muppets that escaped from Labyrinth. The entire art direction of the film is very off; weirdly colored and designed. The Moors are just weird. At any rate, they’re in constant conflict with the human world and Maleficent leads them to victory in a battle that left the king mortally wounded. He offers his throne to whomever can vanquish Maleficent, so smooth ol’ Stefan goes back to The Moors for some cuddle time and while Maleficent is drugged asleep, he hacks off her wings.
For this, he’s given the king’s throne and daughter (Aurora’s mother) and Maleficent does not take it well. It’s from this period through the christening that Maleficent is only vaguely villainous. The way things happen though, you’re rather forced to root for her. I don’t want to root for Maleficent. I want to see Maleficent go bum-over-tea-kettle lugnuts. I want to see the Maleficent who set up her throne in the Moors and marched into the Christening like the Joker’s bride.
So the king sends Aurora to live in the woods to try to avoid the curse and puts the three good faeries (who look AWFUL) in charge of her. They’re so stupid and so incompetent, that Maleficent, hiding in the shadows with her changeling raven essentially raises the child, saving her from the stupidity of the faeries over and over again. Eventually, Aurora becomes friends with her and treats her like her godmother.
Naturally this all comes crashing down when Aurora learns about the curse and her heritage and goes back to her castle and her craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy dad. Maleficent, who by this time loves Aurora (you can pause to punch something). Races the falling sun on the day she’s to prick her finger, dragging Prince Phillip in tow to try to break the curse (she already tried to take it back and couldn’t). Oh Phillip, yes. You’ll recall him from such things as meeting Aurora in the woods and they falling in love and doing the dance and the song and the whatnot. In this version, he falls into a river, stammers a lot, and Aurora gives him permission to see him again. It was blessed semi-tolerance at first sight.
Maleficent can’t reach Aurora in time and since idiot Phillip hasn’t said more than twelve words to her, his kiss does jack-all to touch the curse, BUT MALEFICENT KISSES HER ON THE FOREHEAD AND SHE’S THE ONE WHO BREAKS THE CURSE! I’ll let you break some stuff….take your time…..I’ve a toaster with a dent in it now.
Turns out, Maleficent’s wings are magical or sentient because they leap from where they’ve been hiding in a trophy case (with Aurora’s help) just in time to save her from Stefan’s vengeance (because she…..did what to him in this particular version?). Oh, the dragon? She doesn’t turn into a dragon. The changeling raven morphs into that. So our climax is that Maleficent is reunited with her wings, drops Stefan out the castle window, takes Aurora back to The Moors and crowns her Queen of a United Kingdom. TA DA!
Some people I’ve talked to say this ruins the animated film for them, but ….how? This isn’t even remotely “the flip side” of that film. So many changes were made to the fabric of the story, that it bears no resemblance to that classic. Instead, you have this weirdly assembled, largely bland, bizarrely designed castrated version of Maleficent’s story co-starring other characters not really resembling at all their Disney-drawn counterparts.
This was a totally missed opportunity. If they were going to depart so whole-heartedly from the animated film, why couldn’t they just have given us the Maleficent who dominates the christening? Why couldn’t we have seen her terrible vengeance instead of Maleficent: Adventures in Babysitting? Jolie does the best she can with what she’s given (and just looks stunning in the costume), but what she’s given isn’t much. A disappointment on a colossal scale.
4.0/10 (all for Jolie and the one scene she really got)