It’s easy to see why Angelina Jolie wanted to make Maleficent. The title character is a hundred times more fleshed out than what we got out of her in the 1959 animated Sleeping Beauty. She has a complete arc. She’s good and she’s bad. She’s strong and she’s vulnerable. She’s independent but capable of developing relationships with others. And Angelina Jolie brings it.
I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. Jolie makes it believable that a girl who greeted everyone she met with a smile and a good word could become a woman who felt so betrayed that she would resort to darkness and using others. It’s true – being open to and trusting others means you might get hurt. But as Maleficent figures out, walling yourself off isn’t all that fulfilling.
My favorite part of all was that Maleficent realized she went off the deep end and made a choice to do what she could to undo what she’d done. It’s an elegant moment, quiet and powerful. And it resonated even deeper in what I immediately internally labeled the Frozen moment – when you realize that Philip’s feelings aren’t what will break the spell.
Aurora (Elle Fanning) is almost a prop in comparison. I know, Aurora barely said or did anything in Disney’s last go with her. And she does later take action that helps Maleficent save herself, but even that is practically accidental. Yes, there’s something to be said about someone who engages with the world around her with genuine wonder and appreciation, but it’s made so much stronger by the protectiveness Maleficent feels towards her.
Meanwhile Sharlto Coply seems to be making a name for himself playing unhinged men. If it weren’t for it being so clear that his undoing is his own work more than anything Maleficent ever did, he’d seem like a caricature. Only Sam Riley as the crow, Diaval, seemed to really hold ground in Jolie’s realm.
This realm isn’t just filled with other actors though, there’s a glut of CGI. Normally this heavy of use isn’t my thing, but as the movie moved forward it was easy to accept and done well enough to be fairly seamless. First time director Robert Stromberg made a few camera choices that cheapened the overall feel of the film though. Yet overall, it was a pretty tight ship of a movie.
This wasn’t the villain story I was expecting. It was better. And while it may not be my favorite movie of the year, Maleficent has a stunning amount of warmth and left me, surprisingly enough, feeling very connected to nature.
Maleficent was part of my Top Ten Movies to See in 2014 aka Only Grand Captain Mockingjays of Future Tomorrow.
Kay grew up wanting to be an astronaut. After seeing Star Wars, she wanted to be Princess Leia, Han Solo, and an astronaut. Life’s taken her on a bit of a different path for now, but she’s still a Star Wars fangirl at heart who enjoys surprising people with how geeky she really is. Currently a photographer who also specializes in communications and marketing, Kay spends her free time reading, cooking, writing, learning and, of course, making pew pew noises. You can follow her on Twitter.
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