The earliest film in a lineup of live-action movies of Disney fairy-tale classics (“Cinderella” is due next March), Robert Stromberg’s “Maleficent” is the retelling of Disney’s 1959 animated film of “Sleeping Beauty” and the Grimm’s fairy tale of the same name. Starring Angelina Jolie as the title role in this early summer blockbuster, the film relates a different telling of the classic story. We learn of the life story of Maleficent, the one who places the curse on Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning). In the beginning of the film, we are told that Maleficent’s peaceful country and the estranged neighboring Kingdom can only be reconciled by either a hero or a villain. After this proclamation, we first set eyes on Maleficent as a merry girl-fairy. But Maleficent becomes the evil villain we all know her as, due to a broken heart and a terrible crime committed against her.
With all the lead up to this movie, I met it with a bit of disappointment. The scenery and graphics are remarkable, but this may be the most it has going for it. As Stromberg was a production designer in the visually stunning “Avatar,” and “Maleficent” marks his first time as director, this comes as little surprise. This adaptation of the fairytale has more of a plot to it than the animated version, due to Maleficent’s sidestory, but it still isn’t quite enough to make it into a fulfilling movie. While Maleficent’s tale is believable and captivating, the outcome is still predictable in the already well-known story.
One thing that I loved about the movie are the strong female characters. Besides Maleficent herself, who is a formidable force, Aurora and the three fairies are strong and confident characters in their own ways (even though the fairy aunties may seem stupid and ditzy). I especially enjoyed the scenes when the fairies were clueless caretakers of baby Aurora, dismissing the assumption that all women have natural maternal instincts. The casting of Elle Fanning was a wise choice, as she is an actual teenager and plays her part as a woodland maiden fairly well.
If you decide to see the movie, you’ll enjoy it, but it won’t be the end of the world if you miss out. Angelina Jolie fans and Disney fanatics will probably get the most out of it, and it may not even be enough for them, as it was a bit disappointing to this Disney fan. I liked “Maleficent,” for what it’s worth, but I wouldn’t have been missing much if I had opted out.