Director: Robert Stromberg
“Princess Aurora: “All the other fairies fly, why don’t you?”
Maleficent: “I had wings once, and they were strong. But they were stolen from me.”
Maleficent is a live-action remake of the animated Sleeping Beauty film released by Disney in 1959 (the 1959 Disney version was based on earlier tales named Little Briar Rose by Brothers Grimm and The Beauty Sleeping in the Wood by Charles Perault). Maleficent is a modernized version of Sleeping Beauty and the tale focuses on the events that led Maleficent to become a villain. In the remake, an elderly woman tells the story of a young but powerful fairy named Maleficent. Maleficent protects the peaceful magical realm from the human kingdom which seeks to take control of all the land. Maleficent is betrayed by someone that she loves and her heart turns cold. She takes her revenge by cursing the human King’s daughter, Aurora, to prick her finger on a spinning wheel before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday and fall into a death like slumber; only true love’s kiss can break the curse. Maleficent soon realizes that Aurora may be the one person to bring peace to both the lands.
You can see the trailer for Maleficent (2014) below:
After watching the trailers for Maleficent, we were uncertain about whether we would enjoy the movie. The first trailer was a bit of a disappointment because the focus was more on Aurora than Maleficent. The second trailer, however, was brilliantly done! The focus was almost solely on Maleficent and showcased the villainous nature to her character. After watching the movie, we both had the same reaction. That it was amazing, and can we see the movie again?! Frances actually went to the cinema a few days later to watch Maleficent again!
We loved the reimagining of Sleeping Beauty (1959) and actually prefer Maleficent (2014). Maleficent (2014) explains a huge plot hole in Sleeping Beauty (1959) – if Maleficent is a fairy where are her wings? In Maleficent (2014), Maleficent has wings initially, but, after a ruthless betrayal, Maleficent’s wings are stolen from her. This is a key factor in what turns Maleficent’s heart cold, and a brilliant way to put the audience on Maleficient’s side. We wanted Maleficient to get her revenge as much as she did. The other twists in Maleficient (2014) also modernized the story, removing some of the plot points in Sleeping Beauty (1959) that haven’t translated well over time. We won’t discuss the modern twists in Maleficent (2014) here because these are major spoilers. However, there is a link to hidden content at the bottom of this review where we do discuss these points.
We loved the development of Maleficent’s character. Initially, the audience sees a kind-hearted side to Maleficent’s personality. She cares about the magical realm and will do anything to protect the magical creatures that live there. The costumes that Maleficent wears are all in earth tones (e.g., browns and creams) and her hair is worn down. After her wings are stolen Maleficent changes. She becomes angry and set on seeking revenge against the person who stole her wings. The costumes Maleficent wears are darker tones (e.g., blacks and greys) and her hair is concealed with headdresses that gives her a harsh look. As time passes, it becomes clear that Maleficent isn’t as evil as she tries to convince everyone that she is. There are moments where the audience catches glimpses of the old Maleficent who was more mischievous than evil, and the costumes slowly start to shift back towards earth tones.
Just as an additional note, we both loved the cheek bones that Maleficent has. You can see a picture of the effect below. This along with the horns gave Maleficent and truly other-worldly feel!
Aside from the arc of Maleficent’s character development and the costumes, we also loved her magic. In particular, we loved how Maleficent’s magic was yellow/orange when she was using good magic, but green when she was using bad magic. We also loved how Maleficent’s eyes shine green when she is using her magic. You can see a gif of Maleficent using bad magic and her eyes glowing green below:
We also really enjoyed the subtle nods back to Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty (1959). For example, Maleficent’s magic was green when she was casting dark spells, and when she curses Aurora, the costume that Maleficent is wearing and the staging of the scene echoes that in Sleeping Beauty (1959).
We thought that Angelina Jolie did an amazing job of portraying Maleficent’s character. There were so many different sides to her character, and it is unusual to see such well-rounded “real” woman in movies. Jolie did an excellent job of showing a vulnerable side of Maleficent near the beginning. The scene where Maleficent realizes her wings have been stolen is heart-breaking. Jolie does an amazing job of portraying the mixture of surprise and pain at losing such a key part of herself. The subtle body language that Jolie uses (e.g., reaching out to where her wings were and using a staff because she’s not used to walking without the weight of her wings) along with her cries of sorrow brought tears to our eyes.
Jolie also did a brilliant job of portraying the other, more evil side to Maleficent. In Sleeping Beauty (1959), Maleficent’s character is quick to rage, but there is also a playful, kind of crazy side to her personality, too. Jolie captured that brilliantly! Particularly, in the court scene where Maleficent feigns that her feelings are hurt only to laugh. This scene was filmed perfectly, and, again, was a nice nod back to the original Sleeping Beauty (1959) where Maleficent does the exact same thing.
Jolie also portrayed a mischievous side to Maleficent’s character. For example, Maleficent plays tricks on the three pixies looking after Aurora, like making it rain in their house or pulling their hair; each time the pixies think one of the others is doing it. Also, Maleficent tries to frighten Aurora when she is a baby, but the baby just giggles leading Aurora to gain the nickname Beastie. We can’t find any clips or gifs of these yet, but once the movie is released on DVD, we’ll add some clips here.
The twist on Maleficent’s faithful raven, Diablo, in Sleeping Beauty (1959) was brilliant! In Maleficent (2014), Maleficent saves a raven named Diaval from being killed by turning him into a human. Diaval swears his allegiance to Maleficent in exchange for saving his life. Maleficent uses Diaval as her wings to keep tabs on what is happening in the castle. Diaval was a really great surprise. We hadn’t expected the raven to turn into a human or the other creatures that Maleficent transforms him into. Not only was the magic very cool, but Diaval brought a great deal of comedy to the film. He isn’t afraid to speak his mind to Maleficent and his complaints about the animals that she turns him into are hilarious. For example, at one point, she turns Diaval into a wolf and he complains about being turned into a dirty dog. Later in the movie, he complains that Maleficent tells him to leave if he’s scared because she doesn’t tell him how much she needs him by her side. He almost stole the show!
Maleficent: You don’t have to stay here, Diaval. This isn’t your fight.
Diaval: Really? After all this time? Don’t go Diaval! I need you Diaval! I can’t do this without you Diaval!
Maleficent: (dryly) I can hear you.
We were initially worried about Aurora, played by Elle Fanning. In the first trailer, Aurora is walking through a forest with strange fairy like creatures and speaking in a terrible British accent! She’s also very young, too young for how we pictured Aurora. In the Disney movie, she pricks her finger on her sixteenth birthday. In the trailer, Elle Fanning doesn’t look sixteen. She looks more like fourteen or fifteen (Elle Fanning didn’t turn sixteen until April 2014, a month prior to the release of the movie). We were pleasantly surprised by Aurora though. Her accent didn’t seem so bad when we were watching the movie (mostly because it was never specifically an English accent), and her acting wasn’t too bad. Although the moment where she returns home to her father and runs up to hug him made us cringe a little. Yet the scene where she finds out about the curse was well acted considering she is rather upset.
You can see the well-acted scene below:
We think it really did help that Aurora’s screen time wasn’t actually that large, particularly for speaking parts. Plus, Maleficent knocked her out quite a lot.
For the most part, Aurora just grinned at everything. This was perhaps a little sickly sweet at times, but on the whole it worked.
Aide from Aurora’s smiles, there was only one other thing that we weren’t keen on. The CGI for the three pixies that look after Aurora was a bit strange. There was just something off about them the entire time they were in their small forms. We can’t quite put our fingers on it- perhaps the heads are slightly too large for their bodies, or perhaps because we are familiar with the actresses it is strange to see their faces distorted in shape by the animation. What did you think?
Lastly, I’d just like to leave you with a video that highlights the similarities between Sleeping Beauty (1959) and Maleficent (2014). Enjoy!
Final Verdict: A brilliant reimagining of Sleeping Beauty (1959) that is nostalgic because of the nods toward the original, but with new modern twists that update the tale for modern times.
Click the link to see our discussion of the ending and spoilers for the movie: The Ending of Maleficent.