Score = B
(Action–Adventure / PG)
Review by: Kisho Wolfe
Logline: Sleeping Beauty; the other truth
Maleficent is a fairy, but not just any fairy. She’s the strongest fairy among the Moor folk. In Disney’s latest film we get a snippet of her childhood, which consists of growing up parent-less in a forest brimming with all types of non-human beings. As strange as this seems, it succeeds in revealing a new depth to the character’s psyche. We see that she wasn’t always the queen of all evil portrayed in the tales of old. She was actually a sweet and caring young fairy. She first appears in the movie in what looks to be her pre-tween years (in human time tables), and it still tugs at my brain to see how mentally developed she was at such a young age with no formal guidance. I guess some fairies are just smarter that way.
As intelligent as the younger Maleficent (Isobelle Molloy) was, there were still many lessons she needed to experience first-hand to truly understand; and one of them was a lesson in love. Her first sniff at this powerful emotion happened during her young age when she met the human boy, Stefan (Michael Higgins) invading her domain. Although she told him it was dangerous to be in the forest, he threw caution to the wind and revisited her throughout the years which sparked an emotional connection between the two. There was a non-essential scene where they showed the main characters as teens, but if you blinked, you missed it. I’m guessing it was an attempt at transitioning to adults, but I’m thinking it would have been better to extend the story showing them as youngsters. Either that or have something more significant happen while in their teen years.
Time passes and both are now adults. The adult Stefan (Sharlto Copley) has higher priorities on his list and has been absent from the forest for some time. One of those priorities includes becoming the next king; by any means necessary. King Henry (Kenneth Cranham) is not thrilled at being thwarted in his attempts to go deeper into the forest by the now infamous Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), and the ailing king presents an opportunity for Stefan’s dreams to come true. The cost to be the boss? Kill Maleficent.
Angelina Jolie does an excellent job in the retelling of Maleficent. As expected, her acting prowess carries the movie forward with excellent timing and just the right amount of cynical delivery that makes her character pop on the big screen. As a small caveat to the previous sentence, I do think her gut wrenching, “I’m in the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life” chops need a bit of work. Copley’s acting is quite the opposite to our heroine. A great percentage of his acting and line delivery seemed struggled and awkward. At times it even felt as if he forgot his lines while the camera was running before finally blurting out an ill-timed sentence. Sam Riley had great chemistry along-side Jolie as her side-kick, Dival. Their banter definitely kept things a bit light during movie. Screen veterans Kenneth Cranham and Imelda Staunton were great to watch on-screen and right at home in their roles as well. Isobelle Molloy also made a great Young Maleficent, which definitely portrayed the surprising side of our protagonist.
Sleeping Beauty is our silent hero without being the hero in this movie; if you catch my drift. If not, you’ll get it when you watch the movie. *Wink-wink.* No spoilers, my friend. We see her at two younger ages; one of them including Angelina’s real daughter, Vivianne, before the teenage version played by Ellie Fanning. I always find it interesting when actors put their young’uns in films. It makes you wonder if their child will follow in their parents footsteps and do as great a job. No pressure!
There are always three sides to every story: The protagonist’s side, the antagonist’s side, and what really happened. Since 1959 we’ve been reminded of the human version of this good versus evil tale. Over half a century later, we’re finally treated to the other side of the story. I have to admit, I have always sensed there was more to the story than meets the eye. I mean, come on, hexing the king’s daughter due to being snubbed from a celebration is a tad extreme. Gives a new meaning to a scorned woman, right?
This years Maleficent was a good time. Small blips like stiff flying in some CG scenes and Shalto’s acting didn’t deter the movie from being an enjoyable hour and a half. I give Maleficent a solid B.