I always seem to get sidetracked on my reviews lately, but this is one I definitely wanted to comment on. I saw Maleficent on its opening weekend, and was wonderfully torn about how I felt about the movie.
Before any of you continue, I do have to do the obligatory SPOILERS AHEAD warning and advise any of you who have not seen the movie yet to come back here after watching, because I will discuss major elements of the plot in this review.
I was interested in this movie from the moment it came out because Sleeping Beauty was one of my first (if not the very first) Disney movie I owned and watched as a child. Everyone knows the classic story: the princess, the curse, the kiss, and the assessment that spinning wheels are tools of the devil. I liked that Disney was willing to take this approach to the story from the character we have all known as the “bad guy”.
But more on that later.
I’ll start with some surface things: I am not the biggest fan of Angelina Jolie. She’s beautiful, but she’s not one of those actresses where I HAVE to see everything she is in. Even so, I truly enjoyed her as Maleficent. She had the look and the attitude, she was a perfect choice for the role. I enjoyed that we got the chance to see the world of the faeries and I especially loved seeing Maleficent with wings!
You cannot tell me this didn’t impress you.
What I was torn about with this movie was that Maleficent was developed to be a tragic figure, rather than some bitch who cursed a baby because she wasn’t invited to a party. I think this is the problem a few people had with the story because Disney actually humanized their villian instead of encouraging you to blindly hate them because they are “evil”. In stories we heard as children, we got used to defining the “good guy” and the “bad guy”; and once a character is defined as the “bad guy” we often stick to that identity for the character. We don’t want to imagine there was ever a point that this character was innocent, or good, or even relatable because then……how can they still be a “bad guy”? Luckily, we aren’t kids anymore, and can recognize that people aren’t 100% good or evil. Morality is a collection of gray areas, and Maleficent’s story displays this beautifully. So even though she’s no longer the wicked villain you know, she’s still an amazing character.
Maleficent begins as a regular faerie with wings. But as we know, Maleficent was never portrayed as having wings. In a background story that makes you hate humanity, we see Maleficent befriend a human boy, fall in love with him, and then fall victim to deception and betrayal from that human which results in the loss of Maleficent’s wings—-and a promotion to the throne for the little douchebag who cut them off. This is the reason she hates the king, and this ends up being the reason she curses Aurora in the way we all remember from the story.
Maleficent lashes out because she was betrayed. She was blinded by anger and anxious for revenge. But as time goes on, she actually develops a relationship with Aurora. She becomes a mother figure for the girl and, ironically, Aurora even calls her “fairy godmother”. She ends up feeling so guilty that she tried to remove the curse she cast, but the hatred she felt was so strong that not even Maleficent could dispell her own curse. I really enjoyed that because Maleficent’s regret and reaction not only humanize her character, they show that good people are capable of bad things. She wasn’t evil–she was angry, lashed out on someone who didn’t deserve it, and realized the error of her ways and regretted her actions. For children watching this movie, I feel like this is a very important lesson to learn.
The ending was the big shocking twist that most people are talking about. I especially enjoyed the twist at the end that it was not the prince who was Aurora’s “true love’s kiss”. Instead it was Maleficent, who really did begin to love the girl she had initially cursed. Though this isn’t keeping in canon with the story, I actually enjoyed it for multiple reasons:
1. Aurora barely knew the prince. How could someone she barely knew be her true love? At least, how could we be sure so soon? This same sort of message also appeared in Frozen, as I mentioned in my review of that movie, and I am very happy that Disney is backing the idea that true love develops over time rather than love at first sight.
2. The love in the “true love’s kiss” was maternal love rather than romantic love. Another plus for disney for focusing on other types of love aside from romance, something they have been doing more lately with their films which I really enjoy.
3. Maleficent said the reason she cursed Aurora the way she did was because there is no such thing as true love, therefore the spell could never be broken. Being so hurt, it’s expected that she would feel that way. However, when she breaks the spell by kissing Aurora on her forehead she realizes that true love IS real, and she is capable of feeling it.
There were some other things I felt to be noteworthy:
The crow was awesome. I liked how we got to know him as a character, he even seems to be a moral compass for Maleficent at times. He’s also pretty witty. I enjoyed him.
The moors were GORGEOUS. The whole movie really was visually stunning, but that particular area was breathtaking.
The fairies watching over Aurora seem stupid as hell. They have good intentions, but the film really made them all look dumb and I think that also made the audience want to have Maleficent be more involved. I felt a little bad that we didn’t get to see them as caretakers for Aurora like in the original Sleeping Beauty, but they were more like the three stooges.
The scene with toddler Aurora hugging Maleficent…..HILARIOUS. Reminds me of certain friends who don’t like kids.
Aurora’s father is one of the most awful people ever…..he acted like he was in love with Maleficent, kissed her, then didn’t talk to her for years… Then he goes back to kill her and gain the king’s favor but pussed out and took her wings instead so it would look like he’d killed her, gets the princess out of the deal, knocks her up, and after Maleficent comes to curse Aurora you never even see him speak to his wife again. He gets so consumed with paranoia and fear the queen literally died alone because he wouldn’t take time to sit with her…and then when Aurora arrives at the castle, he doesn’t really seem happy to see her. King Stefan really ONLY cared about himself. I find it funny that a villian was humanized to the point where the audience loved her and a character we used to sympathize with was twisted into a greedy power hungry douche.
I also like how we were able to break away from stereotyping Maleficent as “bad” even though she had horns and wore black. Throughout history, horns and the color black have been associated with evil and Satanic figures, and I’m glad this movie could show appearances aren’t everything.
So that’s it. Maleficent isn’t the wicked lady I gre up hearing about anymore, but it’s kind of a good thing. Do you agree? What did you think?