Angelina Jolie as Maleficent
Elle Fanning as Aurora
Sharlto Copley as Stefan
Sam Riley as Diaval
Imelda Staunton as Knotgrass
Lesley Manville as Flittle
Juno Temple as Thistletwit
Isobelle Molloy as Young Maleficent
Michael Higgins as Young Stefan
Every moment has a long trace behind it. What our eyes see is hardly closer to the imperial realities leading to that moment. Keeping that in mind, Poe approved, “Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.” The story of Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault is the version all of us have heard, read, and seen. The old fairytale about Princess Aurora’s 100 years a sleep slave is revamped in this new version of Sleeping Beauty, this time from the perspective of Maleficent, going back to her roots and learning about her, a bit, and discovering that she is not exactly the preacher of evil as portrayed in the original fairytale.
As such tales usually start, once upon a time, there lived a fairy by the name of Maleficent who protected the Moors from humans, utterly savage humans enslaved by greed and lust. She was the generous Queen Fairy who befell into humanly love with a mortal, Stefan—the future ruler of the Kingdom and father of Princess Aurora. In his lust for power, Stefan betrays Maleficent using her weakness against metals and detaching her wings from her body—turning her into the Dark Mistress of All Evil that she went to be known as—from the original Compassionate Fairy and Protector of the Moors that she was. As the fairytale has it, Maleficent curses Princess Aurora on her christening to fall in a deep sleep after pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday. The rest, as they say, is history—but not quite in this reinvigorated tale of Maleficent directed by Robert Stromberg and prudently adapted by Linda Woolverton.
The basic premise remains the same to the fairytale, but this live-action epic retells the story of Princess Aurora from Maleficent’s point of view. The narration by Janet McTeer (as the elderly Princess Aurora) embezzles the movie with an almost bookish, fairytale-esque aura—rekindling the warmth of the classic fairytale that we have all felt in our childhood. The same warmth in McTeer’s voice carries on to the screen showing us young Maleficent bubbling in her own charms filled with innocence, and falling for a meager human, Stefan.
Going to a period before Maleficent became The Maleficent; the backstory is detailed and has a comprehensiveness to tell us what really happened, why it happened, and how did it all come to a head in the grand finale. Very convincing, we ultimately feel for her predicament and as evil as she turns out, every drip of pain and anguish in Maleficent’s life caused by King Stefan shakes the viewer in support for her and in sympathy towards her degeneration from the sunny protector fairy to the dreaded, almost gothic, dark mistress of evil.
For somebody who grew up reading these tales, Maleficent will be another trip back to those nostalgic lanes. With a plot that ventures into the psychology of the Dark Angel, the story is rich in allegory. A critic gives life to art, said Wilde, and taking that liberty—in this aesthetic restating of an immortal story, the themes of politics and democracy live subtly within. After all, Maleficent protected her Kingdom from humans and by hook or crook, in this retelling, she manages to unify the Moors and the Kingdom into one utopia under a compassionate, noble, and worthy Princess, later Queen, Aurora. It could count as a master class lesson of chess by the tactical genius within Maleficent, no doubt, but the story might be a bit deeper for the fairytale that is Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent is without question profounder than the archetypical children fantasy, and that makes it stand out as a unique recycling, whilst bestowing a fresh life into this universal classic.
Angelina Jolie as Maleficent overpowers the ginormous special effects, dazzling in its own right, with the role of the enigmatic mistress giving her a much-needed reprise as an actor. There are several scenes in the movie featuring Jolie, not being specific to maintain sobriety, which makes you feel for her loneliness, with the pain visible in her mannerisms and the grief in her expressions. The transformation of the Moors swiftly reverberating Maleficent’s transformation from the bright, sundry angel to the dark, twisted fairy makes it a sight to watch, which along with the dark composition vindicates the change, in turn inventing the movie as an emotional rollercoaster and an engaging watch, rich at times, gloomy at others—but thoroughly enjoyable at all times.
Many were skeptical about Sleeping Beauty getting a makeover, yet Maleficent is not only just a makeover relevant to this time and age, it also reveals the inner conscience and psychology of a woman left to shreds. It is like peeling the layers of an onion going a notch deeper exploring human nature and psychology—why events turn out to be as they are and how everything is an effect of some cause that is never visible, yet the effect is always pronounced. In that way, Maleficent is stark, philosophical, and reflects the graver aspects, which is why it seems many have not been able to digest the gravity of the matter here.
With some of the best CGI and special effects complimented by a strong performance by Jolie and a joyous flip of an old story, Maleficent is Disney’s classic feel-good tale that tells about love, forgiveness, redemption, and the virtue of goodness. Maleficent makes you emotional with the story showing that love exists at all levels—not merely as described in original fairytales or in the glamorous world of romance. A complete family extravaganza full of emotions, and with a strong message of transformation attached to it, do thyself a favor: watch Maleficent. It will really make you feel good.