It's Not Easy Being Mean
A fairy needs wings.
Without them, she stings.
A fairy needs trust.
Betray her, she’ll bust.
Revenge will ensue.
A curse she will do.
But love comes along.
So can she be wrong?
And if that be true,
how can she undo
her curse so unfair
on someone so fair?
Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie as the wicked fairy from “Sleeping Beauty,” deals with such serious themes as betrayal, revenge, love, and redemption. But the most impressive thing about this wonderful film involves its creative presentation. Practically every scene comes across like an intriguing work of art. That shouldn’t have surprised me, for Robert Stromberg makes his directorial debut here – and he already has two Oscars for art direction -- one for Alice in Wonderland (starring Johnny Depp) and the other for Avatar. Clearly, the visual appeal of the movie was uppermost in Stromberg’s mind. I admire this approach, because one of the elements I look for while watching a film is cinematic artistry, and Maleficent passes this test with flying colors.
I also look for outstanding performances and a compelling story. Happily, Maleficent receives high marks from me in both areas. Jolie could have gone over the top as Maleficent, but instead she uses very subtle facial expressions to help us see what her character is going through. Whether leading her creature supporters in battle for their precious moors, raging over the betrayal she’s suffered, or developing tender feelings for a young child, I believed her completely. Kudos to the costume and make-up artists for making Maleficent appear so magical and powerful.
Elle Fanning also deserves praise for becoming the embodiment of innocence on screen. She’s lovely and endearing -- just the way teenage Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) should be. Sam Riley adds a bit of humor as Maleficent’s sidekick Diaval. He’s very amusing. And so are Leslie Manville, Imelda Staunton and Juno Temple as the three sometimes bungling pixies assigned to watch over Aurora until she’s sixteen. Plus, Sharlto Copley does a wonderful job projecting the evil of an ambitious king who started everything. I know what you’re thinking now. Where’s the handsome prince? Not to worry. Brenton Thwaites, who plays Prince Phillip, displays youthful charisma during his limited time on camera.
Regarding the story (screenplay by Linda Woolverton), reimagining Sleeping Beauty might not sit right with fairy tale purists, but I enjoyed this new approach and the surprises it contains. Maleficent still features a spindle catastrophe, lots of villainous action, and a true-love kiss to awaken Aurora. Yes, some confusion remains about revoking the Sleeping Beauty curse, but everything else worked for me as well as for the audience at the screening I attended. Viewers of all ages applauded the movie as the credits rolled.
And, by the way, please stay for those credits to hear Lana Del Rey’s haunting version of “Once Upon a Dream,” the popular song from Disney’s 1959 Sleeping Beauty.
(Released by Walt Disney Pictures and rated “PG” for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images.)
For more information about Maleficent, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.