Written by Mallory Delchamp
With the recent success of this summer’s Marvel films it is safe to say that the Mouse is well on its way to box office domination. Maleficent, the latest film from Walt Disney Studios is sure to please parents and children alike. While the film isn’t as groundbreaking as I personally had hoped it would be it is certainly a better adaptation of a classic fairy tale than Disney and Tim Burton’s feeble attempt of Alice in Wonderland.
Directed by Robert Stromberg (in his directorial debut, but known for his effects work on Pan’s Labyrinth and The Hunger Games), Maleficent serves as a (somewhat) prequel to the 1959 animated classic, Sleeping Beauty. It tells the story of the villain and how and why she came to be the cunning character Disney fans have come to know and adore for decades. Audiences learn that Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) was a fairy, her wings were stolen, and she curses Aurora (Elle Fanning as Sleeping Beauty, herself) simply out of revenge and hatred for the young princesses’ father (Sharlto Copley of District 9 fame). Maleficent isn’t necessarily evil but more so misunderstood and angry. The film does stray from the original story adaptation and we learn that Aurora and Maleficent do have a beautiful yet brief friendship prior to the events leading up to where Sleeping Beauty essentially begins.
Similar to last year’s Academy award winning film Frozen, Stromberg’s cinematic masterpiece excels at veering away from the typical fairy tale that Disney has come to master. It is not the prince who saves the day in this story-in fact Aurora’s prince is hardly in this film and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead it is Maleficent who ruins the day but it is also she who manages to save it. The title character functions as both the villain and the hero and we learn there is more to Sleeping Beauty than true love’s kiss.
Angelina Jolie shines as the villainous horned fairy. Like many of her former movie credits she manages to bring an authenticity and humanity to the role and allows the audience to fall in love with Maleficent within the first ten minutes of the film. While there are several dark moments there are also various comedic and heartwarming ones as well. Jolie brings the character to life and does so in such a way that only she could do. Elle Fanning carries on in the tradition of her prodigy sister (Dakota Fanning) and gives Aurora more personality than the original animated princess (who is arguably one of the more simple and plain heroines of the Disney princess franchise.) Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, and Juno Temple play the three fairies that watch over Aurora-and they do so wonderfully. The trio provides several moments of comic relief throughout the 97-minute long feature.
Like any proper fairy tale film, Maleficent has a beautiful soundtrack thanks to James Newton Howard’s memorable score. Pop sensation Lana Del Rey’s gothic and bluesy rendition of “Once Upon a Dream” is a wonderful closing number to the film. The effects and costumes are equally as beautiful and it isn’t hard to get swept away into Maleficent and Aurora’s fictional world.
Bottom line: Maleficent is highly enjoyable. It’s visually stunning, features wonderful performances, has a lovely soundtrack and is yet another reminder once again as to just how special Disney is and continues to be to movie fans around the world.
Mallory Delchamp is a writer, model, and performer living in Manhattan. You can routinely read her film and music reviews here on Pop-Break and you can also check out her work on zumic.com and nytheatreguide.com. A social media and pop culture enthusiast, Mallory also enjoys musical theatre, superhero films, and drinking coffee. You can visit Mallory at her website, www.mallorydelchamp.com