I know there are plenty of Disney fans that have a soft spot for the classic film Sleeping Beauty, I’m one of them, so needless to say when this was announced my interest peaked. And after sitting through this movie I’m left with a mix of emotions. Maleficent is a solid picture that tries to be more than a live action adaptation with a twist but stumbles along the way.
The basic premise of this what if version is that we, as enthusiasts, never knew the villain. The odyssey of a dark fairy who eventually cursed sweet and innocent Aurora remained largely out of context because there was reason to her madness. And it’s through that perspective that we gain an experience that clearly sees what could and should be an accessible but challenging wrinkle to a familiar narrative. At times it is exactly that but there are certainly some pitfalls it honestly fails to miss.
The vision crafted by Robert Stromberg fits the guise of a first time director with a background in visual effects. The flick from start to finish is a power house employing practical and computer magic but due to that it, at times, feels hollow. If anything can be said: he maintained a firm grip on who the focus was but he failed to develop secondary cast members to the products detriment. Whether you want to blame the script or not is ultimately secondary, because there were key moments where over-the-top additions just over powered individual growth.
The star of this piece is and will always be the strongest feature it has to offer. Our protagonist and antagonist Maleficent is brought to life through an immensely impressive performance by Angelina Jolie. She embodies both the villainy of the cartoon interpretation and the tender transformation into that evil in ways that are bound to please members of the audience in theaters around the world. Aurora (Elle Fanning) for the most part is convincing in her part though a bit underdeveloped especially when considering what happens in the third act. Many of the other players are forgettable but Diaval (Sam Riley) stands out as a goofy but engaging sidekick.
Overall the movie is a watchable feat that bounces between the animation that inspired it and the serious tale it wants to tell. Due to that dichotomy there’s some friction that letters a spell for some disastrous moments. Even so, for as many awkward and overly corny segments there are majestic ones that speak to the beauty of the piece and its mission. The music composed by James Newton Howard offered a strong backbone that I honestly didn’t expect. Much like our dark fairy’s wings the score was big, strong and memorable enough to keep this going.
Maleficent has issues but it’s a watchable feature that has enough worth within to own its rendition of cinematic villainy. Despite a questionable third act I left the theater more or less satisfied as this glides through with a light recommendation.