Friday, June 6, 2014
Once upon a time there were two kingdoms - one ruled by a greedy king and one which had no need for king or queen for its occupants relied on one another. In this realm, Maleficent, a young and beautiful fairy is the de facto leader and beloved by all its inhabitants. One day a human boy, Stefan, comes into their peaceful kingdom intent on stealing riches and instead ends up stealing Maleficent's heart. Their friendship grows over the years until the day Stefan ceases to come, instead focused on his ambitions to one day occupy the stately royal castle which was part of his kingdom.
Years later, with both Maleficent and Stefan adults, the king and his army decide to lay claim to the moors that comprise the fairy kingdom but Maleficent along with nature's own guardians thwart their endeavors, humiliating the vain ruler and thereby inspiring his wrath. On his deathbed the king offers the kingdom itself to whomever will avenge him, and Stefan now a manservant to the king, upon hearing this has his greed and dreams of grandeur reawakened. Stefan goes to Maleficent with the pretext of warning her of impending harm but instead drugs her to sleep, and though the coward loses his nerve to kill her, he instead takes from her what she most values and brings it back to the king as proof of her death.
Beset with pain, grief and rage, Maleficent vows revenge and relying on the help of a new companion, a black crow named Diaval, which she shape-shifts to man, beast or creature to suit her needs, she plots and patiently waits for the day when Stefan - now king - can feel her wrath. This part of the story you known, as Maleficient hears of the christening of Stefan's child, Aurora, and appears at the castle uninvited to bestow a special "gift" on the child, a sleeping curse that will take effect on her 16th birthday and whose only antidote is true love's kiss. But here's where it gets good, because the rest of this story's "truth" is so much better than we were ever told as children, for this isn't just a story of a prince's kiss or a sleeping beauty but one of hope and redemption.
This was such a great film; truly one of Disney's best and I just loved it. A truly sweet, funny and moving retelling which takes a great story and makes it even better. The narrative has real substance and because of that Maleficent becomes more than just a story of a cookie-cutter villain, but instead a two-dimensional look at a complex being with real emotions - love, pain, anger, hope. Maleficent's portrayal of good and evil and darkness and light offers a cautionary tale on greed and blind ambition unencumbered by conscience.
Despite the incredible special effects found throughout the film, which are obviously integral in creating this magical world of fairies and dragons and all sort of spry mythical creatures that are part of Maleficent's world, the plot and character development aren't sacrificed on the altar of CGI. With that said, the special effects are amazing; from Maleficent's glorious wings, to the army of trees and roots that she brings to life in an epic battle scene, to Diaval's numerous transformations from crow, to human, to fire-breathing dragon. Being a live-action film instead of a cartoon, has in no way diminished the filmmaker's capacity to portray the surreal beauty and awe-inspiring power of Maleficient's bewitching world.
The truth is the weight of this entire film lies on one person's shoulders, and that is those of Angelina Jolie as Maleficent; a weight that she carries beautifully and masterfully. Jolie has imbued so much heart into this role; she made the character strong, funny, witty, and most importantly sympathetic. Sure she's scary at times, but Jolie managed to somehow always show a glimmer of Maleficent's goodness shining just beneath the surface, so that you're never in doubt that when push comes to shove, she'll do the right thing. Elle Fanning was wonderful in the role of Aurora; sweet, charming and endearing and of course beautiful; it is Sleeping Beauty after all.
Maleficent has brought us a new fairy tale and a new truth to believe in; one in which love in all its forms, not just romantic love, can heal even the most broken of hearts and goodness as always wins the day.