The Skinny (No spoilers)
Not too many shades of grey for old “Walt”.
However since the release of the book and musical “Wicked”, where we learn that the Wicked Witch of the West wasn’t really that evil, we have seen an effort by producers and writers to delve a little more into our villain’s backstories. “He’s/She’s not that bad, just misunderstood”. Heck, they even made Anakin Skywalker turn to the dark side only in the vain hope of saving his wife and unborn child(ren). (if you understand the parentheses, five nerd points for you!) The moral of these revisionist tales appears to be: No one is born an a%#hole, the real world just turns them into one.
It is through this prism that we find Maleficent, staring Angelina Jolie as the title character. It is a good film, especially when you consider that it was made for a much younger audience. The story, and Angelina Jolie’s performance, makes you care for a character that has been associated with evil since the 1959. This is no small feat. Furthermore, the story is set up so that her cursing of Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) is quite plausible. One fault might be that there is TOO MUCH Angelina in the film, but this fact isn’t a major hindrance.
Another fault might be the lack of strong characters that are NOT married to Brad Pitt. Caution: If you are a Disney purist or fan boy/girl, you may have some serious problems with the film. The writers take artistic license with major pieces of the fairy tale. However if this does not deter you, I recommend you see the film. Take your kids! (But please be aware that some scenes might be a little too intense for the really little ones).
The Deep Dive (Spoilers)
The King and I
The movie starts by explaining that Maleficent is a winged fairy, protector of a magical land only a few miles away from Aurora’s future home. We are introduced to Maleficent as a child, where she meets a young peasant boy with whom she eventually falls in love. They break up, but then reunite when they are both young adults. However in the hope of impressing his king, the young man drugs Maleficent’s beverage, waits till she is sleep, and then viciously assaults her by removing her wings (they are, in effect, burned/sawed off; however thank goodness this fact is only strongly implied). After she awakes, we see that the assault has led to bitterness, rage, and a thirst for revenge. I’ll give you three guesses what that revenge will entail…
I spend so many words on the first 1/3 of this film for one reason: it is very effective. Story telling-wise, not one misstep or bad note. It sets up the scenario, links the audience to the characters emotionally, and moves quick as a bunny while covering a lot of dramatic ground. When she loses her wings, you feel for her. Hell, you kind if want a little revenge for yourself. Unfortunately, some of Jolie’s acting is a little stilted. I’m not sure if she meant to play the character that way, but that’s how it came across. The first 1/3 isn’t the best intro ever, but it’s pretty darn good.
“Jeez, and I thought my sixteenth birthday was rough…”:
Because of the wing removal, the young man becomes king and quickly has a daughter, which Maleficent curses. Aurora is moved to the forest and away from the kingdom, staying there until the age of 16. However, apparently Maleficent spends the entire 16 years watching over the young girl. Saving her from falling off a cliff, accepting hugs from toddler Aurora, and hanging out with teenage “Sleeping Beauty” in the magical forest. In fact, Maleficent becomes something close to a surrogate mother for the young lady, eventually attempting (unsuccessfully) to lift the spell. In the end, Aurora finds her way back the castle, pricks her finger, and passes out. Sure, One Direction Reject Prince Phillip shows up eventually, but it is Maleficent’s kiss that awakens Aurora (a “mother’s” love = true love).
In the end, Maleficent and Aurora fight the king and escape. She even gets her wings back to boot.
The Aurora sections of the movie are weak. It’s not the actress’s fault: The character itself has the depth of a kiddie pool. This lack of a dynamic or interesting character during the Aurora section however, places the entire weight of the movie on Jolie’s shoulders, forcing her to be onscreen almost constantly. It gets kind of old.
Thank goodness Joile does a decent job, but it is definitely not an ideal situation. As I mention, I’m not upset that they changed the story, but it is a dramatic shift from the original. Be prepared.
In the end, it is worth the money. Take you (slightly older), sons and daughters. Or if you live in NYC, DC, or LA, your nieces, nephews. They will enjoy it, and you probably will too.