The 1959 film Sleeping Beauty flopped at the box office upon opening. However, as the years went on, the film proved to be a cult classic with Disney fans and the general public alike. Here we are, 55 years on with a spin-off film Maleficent named after the films central villain. Before you set off to watch the film, take into account that this is not going to be the Sleeping Beauty you know. This is something entirely different.
Let the 1959 film go. This is different in almost every way. Maleficent begins as a protector of the ‘moors’ who falls in love with Stefan. He betrays her, she gets angry and extracts revenge on his daughter: Aurora. The storyline itself is OK. Fans of the classic will most likely not enjoy the direction it takes the central star as a lot is changed. The original doesn’t really provide much in a way of reasoning as to why she does what she does; other than pure villainy. Go in to this expecting reasoning, and you’ll find it. Now, some of it does not make sense in the slightest. Basic plot points of Sleeping Beauty are changed. This will frustrate die-hard fans and even casual fans to an extent. Personally, I didn’t mind the overall plot. It’s those little changes (ok, major changes) that really had me. This is not a re-telling of the story you know. It’s a new story.
The character of Maleficent is well-developed and extremely well acted. The scene in which she enacts the curse is chilling in every sense of the word. Jolie plays a terrifying version of Maleficent with conviction. It’s the softer character of Maleficent where this begins to fall apart. This is not a critism of Jolie’s acting, she owns this part; the fault lies in the script.
King Stefan is the least fulfilled character, I don’t understand him. He becomes the real villain of the piece and a total bastard. He becomes a character we have no pity for, despite the evil villainess cursing his daughter. If this is the direction the director wanted the film to take, well bravo. But it does not fit the story.
The fairies: Flora, Fauna and Merryweather – no, I mean: Flittle, Knotgrass and Thistletwit. Are fine. But include an unnecessary name change removing them from the Disney canon.
Ellie Fanning plays a good Aurora. Perhaps a tad irritating in her mannerisms. But for a naive, sixteen year old girl who has been brought up in the woods by fairies; I bought it. Perhaps more than any other character, this works. I have no issues with the direction her role takes – it is intertwined with Maleficent and so works.
This is where this film gets the credit. The effects are mesmerizing. A fairy-tale needs a method of distancing itself from reality. This is achieved by creating the ‘moors’ a place of pure fantasy. Imagine this beautiful scene. It’s twilight and fairies are dancing with light. It’s a wonderful scene and one this is seen a number of times in the film – much to the films credit. The animal CGI works well and the magic looks realistic and cartoon-like at the same time. Big thumbs up to the effects team on this film. They’ve done a great job.
An OK film, but nothing more than that. A watchable few hours, but ultimately the flawed retelling of the classic tale really does let it down somewhat. This is a shame as the acting is good, as are the effects. A film is only as good as its story, and the story deviates too much from the version we all know and enjoy.