By Darin Skaggs
As of late, Disney has been trying to dismantle their whole reputation and build up a new one. The classic “Prince” character coming in and saving the “Princess” with true loves kiss and defeating the one note bad guy is a thing of the past. Now their films are filled with sympathetic characters that deal with more real life situations. Disney has continued that trend with Robert Stromberg’s Maleficent, a new take on the classic story of Sleeping Beauty.
It tells the tale of the graceful, adventurous Maleficent, a fairy that seems to rule the magical forest she lives in. It is told that this land is not visited by normal human beings because in the past they did not get along. That is until a young boy, named Stefan, comes and the two form a romantic relationship. Sadly as they get older they have a falling out when Stefan tries to follow a lifelong dream of being king. The king, who has a beef with the magic forest, charges it. He is critically injured and says whoever brings Maleficent’s head will become the new king. Stefan then betrays Maleficent and takes her wings while she is sleeping. Filled with rage she takes revenge by putting the sleeping curse on his new daughter, Aurora.
Trying to take a new look at an old tale is not a bad thing. They do make the once evil character of Maleficent sympathetic. Then later there are a few twist and turns not in the original story, but it does not come together as anything truly special. All the themes it explores are tired ones and some coming straight out of recent Disney hits. If you know the whole story you might not be interested and the added material you can see coming miles away. The film is not terrible it is just not going to change your life after viewing it.
All that said Angelina Jolie is great as Maleficent and Elle Fanning, who plays Aurora, is great as well. The other performances are pretty good as well, despite the uneven script. The film is pretty dark, people fall from the tops of buildings and others get body parts cut off, but the script does add a few moments of comedy. These moments are so jarring, that when they happen it kind of takes you out of the film. There are so few jokes that they just feel like they were added on later so it wouldn’t be such a downer. Mostly the comedic moments are from the three fairy godmothers who are assigned to care of Aurora until the curses time is up. They know nothing about parenthood and apparently for sixteen years, learn nothing at all.
The greatest achievement of the film however is the visual effects. They are dazzling and almost look real. The director has a history of some of the better movies with special effects and this one is no exception. The scenes with flying give you a sense of having the wings that Maleficent does. Sadly, the film is only so-so. It is not life changing nor will it give you rage for its existence. The acting is good, but the script is too uneven and simple.