At long last one of the most eagerly anticipated films of 2014 has arrived. However it’s one of those films that could either have been excellent or a total mess. Thankfully Maleficent is in fact magnificent!
Disney has released a few very expensive live-action movie in the Spring and Summer in the last few years – Alice In Wonderland, John Carter, Lone Ranger etc – some more successful than others. However this time they will have the jackpot, despite a budget of an estimated $200M. If there’s any justice Maleficent will make that back in spades.
Recently Snow White came back to the screen twice, with mixed reviews. This time it’s the turn of Sleeping Beauty, as directed Robert Stromberg (known for his visual effects work on the likes of Pirates Of The Caribbean, Pans Labyrinth and The Hunger Games) and with a script by Alice In Wonderland’s Linda Woolverton.
However while it’s based on the Disney’s 1959 animated classic Sleeping Beauty, this is bad fairy Maleficent’s story – Disney’s all-time favourite villain.
The story goes back to before Maleficent was evil, and how as a child fairy she is turned towards revenge and hatred due to her few dealings with humankind. The child Maleficent (Isobelle Molloy) charms us with her childlike innocence and beauty, as she flies gloriously amongst the other creatures, spreading love and happiness.
However as the film progresses she is betrayed in the most horrific way, taking us down a twisted path until we are introduced to the Maleficent we are familiar with (Angelina Jolie), malevolent yet stunningly elegant and beautiful.
There’s no point in going over the story of Sleeping Beauty, as everyone knows the legend. Maleficent gives things a great twist though – think Sleeping Beauty meets Wicked!
The three good fairies, played by three great actresses (Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple), are not as adept at looking after a child as we would wish and when you throw in Prince Phillip (not our Queen’s husband), King Stefan, magical thorns, a fire breathing dragon and ‘True Love’s Kiss’, we have the making of a Disney classic.
Angelina Jolie excels in the role that was made for her. I personally could not take my eyes off her, with the actress allowing us to delight in her wickedness. One of the most memorable scenes is when she walks into the castle with her shadow climbing the wall (shot to be highly reminiscent of the same scene in the animated version). She then says ‘Well, Well’ in her best clipped Julie Andrews voice, before laying the infamous curse on Aurora (played innocently by Elle Fanning).
Even though Maleficent is ‘wicked’, the film allows us to enjoy her relationships with the pixies, Aurora (who thinks Maleficent is her fairy Godmother) and her crow, Diaval.
This is Angelina Jolie’s vehicle. She steals every scene with her ethereal beauty, elegance and grace. Jolie’s image as Maleficent is already an iconic image that will remain timeless with her chiselled jaw, horns and ridiculously cutting cheekbones.
This film should be a box office smash! Children will want to see it again and again, as will I! I do hope Jolie gets a nod come Oscar time.
Overall Verdict: Most blockbusters are overlong and stretched beyond their recommended running time. However with Maleficent only 97 minutes long, I almost felt a little shortchanged. I could have revelled in its beauty for at least another 30 mins.
Reviewer: Stephen Sclater