“Is this to be my legacy?” says old King Henry (Kenneth Cranham). “Defeated in battle? Kill the winged creature and upon my death, you will take the crown.” Stefan (Sharlto Copley), childhood friend of Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), ambitious to become king, takes on the mission, to kill the winged fairy. That’s the setup for this Disney, live-action, dark, reimagining of Sleeping Beauty.
Will Stefan gain the throne? Will Maleficent seek revenge? Will Aurora (Elle Fanning) awaken to Prince Phillip’s (Brenton Thwaites) chaste kiss? For answers, see magical and visually stunning “Maleficent.”
Angelina Jolie is convincingly wicked as Maleficent who curses Aurora, the royal child. “Before the sun sets on her 16th birthday,” says Maleficent, “Aurora will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a death-like sleep from which she will never awaken.” Nonetheless, as the film’s narrator tells us, Maleficent is drawn to the child, creating unexpected consequences. Aurora, at 3, is charmingly played by Jolie’s daughter Vivienne and, at 16, full of joie de vivre, by Elle Fanning.
Others in the cast include Sharlto Copley as ambitious, Macbeth-like Stefan, Kenneth Cranham as King Henry, whose unrelenting hatred of Maleficent’s magical kingdom is the film’s prologue, and young Brenton Thwaites as Prince Phillip. Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple are Disneyesque pixies, Knotgrass, Flittle and Thistlewit. Sam Riley is Maleficent’s wings, the crow/human Diaval.
“Maleficent” is the title character’s story. Violated and betrayed by an ambitious man she believed to be a friend, Maleficent strikes back at his next generation. Ambition, vengeance and, unexpectedly, love are at the heart of the story. Robert Stromberg directs, from Linda Woolvertton – and nine others’ – script, drawn from Charles Perrault’s classic tale and Disney’s animated “Sleeping Beauty” (1959). It’s dark and violent, a treat to look at for adults, especially in 3D, which is not gimmicky, but there’s not much Disney kid stuff, only the three pixies who have slapstick fun. (Adults may find them more annoying than funny.) And no talking animals except Diaval, a shape-shifting crow that, at the end, becomes a dragon. Probably too scary for the pre-school set. Adult pleasures are visual, the film’s production design suggesting illustrations from classic fairy tale anthologies.
Rated PG for fantasy action and violence, including frightening images, “Maleficent” runs 97 minutes. It’s interesting to talk about afterwards.
Is “Maleficent” bad?
Or is she not?
Ambition, revenge, love –
Dark, magical plot.