Maleficent

I remember vividly the first time I was ever in a significant amount of trouble, even though it wasn’t my fault. I was in the second grade, and Mrs. Robinson didn’t have the concept of graffiti in her curriculum of subtraction and simple magnets, so when I came home one day to the neighborhood kids writing things on our sidewalk, I assumed that the substances would work like chalk. When I inquired further, the neighborhood kids confirmed my assumptions, but when my mother came home and saw what we were doing, the others lied and said that I had brought the materials from school, while singlehandedly writing all of the filthy words, most of which I didn’t understand. As punishment for my crimes, I had to stay home from the field trip to the zoo, and clean all of the graffiti off of the sidewalk. I remember that I cried the entire time, asserting that they had been the ones to write the bad words, but no one would believe me.

Before this moment, I had never truly grasped the idea that people could lie for their gain; yes, I had read about these kinds of betrayals in comics and books, but I never conceived that it could occur outside of the fantasy realms that I loved to frequent. It was a strange thought, the idea that one person’s reality is another person’s fabrication. It’s perspective that matters in the long run, and while the truth may come later, the damage can already be done.

I think it’s because of this concept of perspective that Disney’s Maleficent will do well with audiences.

I struggled with the movie a bit because I had an assumption in my head that this was going to be as good as Wicked. Admittedly, I was forced to see the musical at The Pantages a little while ago, but I’m happy that I did; it was a refreshing take on a mythos that most people thought impossible to add to or improve on. But Maleficent as all of the recognizable pieces that Wicked contained for the general audience: a familiar story told in a compelling perspective, amazing visual and costuming, and an air of comedy where the plot is taken seriously, but not to the point where it isn’t enjoyable. Maleficent is a singular experience of itself, and I suggest that moviegoers remember this fact. It’s not that the movie was bad per se, but I would say that the movie is not as strong as most people had hopes for.

The plot and pacing of the film, while having some brilliant moments, did not do the main character justice as well. Maleficent is not just experienced in Sleeping Beauty, but also in supplementary shorts, cartoons, and video games. Writers before this have given her the position of being the Villain’s Villain; I dare you to play through Kingdom Hearts and not hate her. In this retelling though, that resonance to fear and despise her doesn’t come through, and although at times she is the hero of the story, I don’t feel that the script did a good enough job to portray both spectrums of good and evil for her. I understand that this movie is used to sympathize with Maleficent, but to completely disregard cannon and have the Disney audience feel sorry for her with little exposition felt a bit manipulated. Instead of a force to be reckoned with, she is portrayed as a *SLIGHT SPOILER* jilted lover, and to reduce such a powerful character to a stereotypical portrayal of women in media is a safe move on Disney’s part. “Safe” isn’t a great word in this context.

I sincerely appreciated Angelina Jolie’s performance as the Evil Fairy, and it was very apparent that she invested a great amount of time, money, and energy to do the character of Maleficent as much justice as she could. From costuming to make-up to the fluctuations of her voice, everything was masterly crafted and acted by Jolie, and her input was definitely felt in the Executive Producer position. She is equal parts beautiful and terrifying: there’s a grace in every wicked spell she casts, and a threatening demeanor in every sweet word she speaks. Parents, I strongly urge you to gauge the maturity of your children before seeing this movie. While there are no inherently scary parts, there may be times where small children may be frightened by the visuals. Even one of Jolie’s daughters had to play a young version of Aurora, since the other child actors they cast were too scared to go near Jolie in full costume. Just let that sink in for a second: you looked so scarily convincing in real life that children THAT KNEW IT WAS PRETEND didn’t want to go near you. Costumers and make-up artists for movies, take note: this is how it’s supposed to be done.

Maleficent is definitely worth the watch, if for just viewing the creative takes on a Disney classic. It’s a refreshing perspective on a character many fans thought we would know little to nothing about, and I can definitely see this as a film precursor to see other “misunderstood” villains take center stage to tell their story. I just hope we don’t see a Cruella Deville movie any time soon. I mean, who would ever take the side of a lady that’s trying to complete puppy-genocide? Probably those neighborhood kids; I’m almost 30 and I still carry a grudge.