Main cast: Angelina Jolie (Maleficent), Sharlto Copley (King Stefan), Elle Fanning (Princess Aurora), Sam Riley (Diaval), Brenton Thwaites (Prince Phillip), Juno Temple (Thistlewit), Lesley Manville (Flittle), and Imelda Staunton (Knotgrass)
Director: Robert Stromberg
Maleficent is really unfortunate in that it follows Disney’s other movie, Frozen. There are many parallels. We have another movie reinventing a villain – this time the evil fairy godmother in the Sleeping Beauty story – into a misunderstood creature who has hidden depths and even heroism. Her foil is the wide-eyed ingénue who believes the best in her. We have a sidekick who often provides comic relief, and a bland guy who serves as the love interest of the ingénue. Even the twist in the end is similar to that in Frozen.
In this movie, Maleficent is a powerful fairy flying with carefree abandon in the Moors, a magical kingdom that borders the human kingdom. Humans have traditionally mistrusted and even hated the fairy folks for as long as one can remember, but when young Maleficent meets a boy, Stefan, they form a friendship that eventually becomes teenage infatuation. However, as they grow up, they drift apart. Stefan, an orphaned stable-hand, wants more out of life. When the dying king offers his throne to anyone who can defeat Maleficent, Stefan lures her out in the open for a chat (this is a Disney movie, so everything is G-rated) and cuts off her wings while she sleeps. He takes them back as evidence that he has killed her, and becomes the king shortly after. Maleficent is not amused at all. She turns the Moors into a gloomy kingdom under her role, and quietly broods and plots her revenge.
When Stefan has a daughter, she decides to show up at the daughter’s christening and puts a curse on Aurora – the girl would fall into a sleep-like death after pricking her finger on a spinning wheel spindle, and would only be awaken by a “true love’s kiss”. The last was an open middle finger to Stefan, who claimed that she was his true love before betraying him. Stefan sends her daughter away to be cared in a secret place by the three fairy godmothers Knotgrass. Thistlewit, and Flittle, telling them to send her back to him only on the day after her sixteenth birthday. Meanwhile, he has his men destroy all the spinning wheel spindles in the land and slowly becomes consumed by his paranoia and madness.
Thanks to her crow sidekick Diaval, Maleficent locates Aurora easily enough. She claims to hate the baby on sight, calling her a “beastie”. But she always stays close to Aurora, even caring and feeding for her when the three idiotic and negligent fairy godmothers are too busy doing their own things, and eventually, she realizes that Aurora has gotten under her skin. She is Aurora’s guardian angel and fairy godmother. Unfortunately, she had ensured that her curse could never be retracted, so she becomes increasingly frantic as Aurora’s sixteenth birthday looms closer.
Angelina Jolie is definitely the star of this movie, because every other character exists just to serve as props for her character. Stefan is one-dimensionally nasty and crazy, Aurora is wide-eyed and she likes beautiful things and that’s basically it for her character, and Diaval is loyal to Maleficent because every diva needs a sidekick. This movie has some nice special effects, but the story is one-dimensional and flat despite the occasional attempts to include a feminist twist into the tale. Characters are introduced only to be removed when it’s convenient for the plot, and the ending is so over the top sweet and happy that only movies meant for kids could be.
All things considered, this one feels like an inferior spiritual sequel to Frozen, and Frozen itself isn’t that great a movie in the first place. Maleficent is a nice way for Angelina Jolie to get a paycheck, but as movie, it suffers from a flat script full of underdeveloped characters.