Note: This is not a review of Maleficent, rather a note on my feelings concerning this film. Please read it expecting a personal view, rather than a general analysis of the movie (oh, and watch out for spoilers)!
When I was very young, Disney’s Sleeping Beauty was one of my favorite animated films; I haven’t watched it in years, perhaps even a decade, but while I watched Maleficent, I felt those old feelings emerging out of a haze, dulled by time; I could remember my fear when Maleficent was about to make her grand appearance at the birth ceremony of Aurora. I could remember my anticipation to hear her next words. It was quite funny when I realized this line, ‘Royalty, nobility, the gentry and… How quaint! Even the rabble’ was embedded in my memory, although being so young, I had no idea what gentry meant, let alone any of the other words. I just remembered the mocking voice Maleficent spoke in.
Maleficent pleasantly surprised me. I was expecting a film more along the lines of Alice in Wonderland and Oz, decked out in overly-done CGI, forgetting allegiances to old scripts and characters. But Maleficent was not one of those; in fact, Jolie seemed to have Maleficent down pat, even adding her own extempore bits, which only enhanced her role in a magnificent manner. Maleficent was, after all, a girl, who had had her heart broken and faced betrayal through utmost cruelty. Imagine having wings and then having them torn from you- it’s hard to imagine at that but well, what a nice, feeling touch to the story.
Maleficent was a powerful fairy- one who was relied upon for the protection of the forest, home to many magical creatures. Perhaps taking an environmentalists’ stand doesn’t go awry in this day and age- you begin to root for Maleficent, despite her stubbornness and her wish to bring death to a girl who has done nothing to deserve it. And you begin to hate Stefan, you really, really do. The additional treasure was the little 4-year old Aurora, played by Jolie’s own daughter Vivienne. Despite taking a turn for evil, Maleficent was unable to resist ‘little beastie’, the little Aurora for whom she developed actual feelings and for whom she almost sacrificed her life. I have to admit, watching Jolie with baby Aurora were some of the funniest moments in the entire movie.
The best parts however, are when vestiges of the original Sleeping Beauty come back to life; the remnants of a time long past, where fairies, happily ever afters and magical goodness was the order of the day for young children. It is possible that this perspective is merely the result of my affiliation to the late eighties and early nineties. I can see Maleficent received some very nasty reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. In any case, I’m not daunted by movie reviews in general, and Jolie’s performance still managed a proud walk-away, getting all the credit for making Maleficent at least watchable for those who were expecting more deviation from the original fairytale environment.
I, for one, am glad Maleficent was saved from becoming a twisted, myopic CGI disaster. Instead, it brought the long faded Maleficent to life; the iconic crown and the darkened silhouette lived once again as they graced cinema screens. The questionable futility of the young Prince, his diminished role, the decision of Aurora to take her life in her own hands and the pitiful attempts by the three good fairies to raise Aurora- all mark the ways in which this beautiful classic was changed in order to adapt to a more empowered audience. Yet, Maleficent herself did not change, her character was deepened, with a sad origin story, but the Maleficent moments remained original.
Thank you, Angelina Jolie, for helping my childhood resurface for the few precious hours I watched Maleficent.
Bonus: Watch the unforgettable ‘Awkward Situation’ scene from Maleficent below.