A fairy looking for revenge curses a young infant.
Angelina Jolie - Maleficent
Elle Fanning - Aurora
Sharlto Copley - Stefan
Sam Riley - Diaval
One of the most anticipated films this year was the intriguing Maleficent, a twist on the traditional Sleeping Beauty film and story we all know and love. Disney proved last year with the record-breaking and quite frankly glorious Frozen that they are able to put workable twists on their stories that normally follow stereotypes. Maleficent promised a similar achievement as the Sleeping Beauty story is told by the villain's point of view, much like with the popular musical Wicked. It is certainly not as brilliant or as ground-breaking as Frozen, but Maleficent is a haunting and magical tale that constantly intrigues and proves that Angelina Jolie is not just a pretty face. Without her the film wouldn't have been nearly as good!
Shockingly it has been over fifty years since the release of Disney's classic animation Sleeping Beauty, a beautiful adaptation of the French story La Belle au bois Dormant by Charles Perrault. Despite the passage of time the story has not lost its significance standing the test of time, and [Maleficent](movie:39352) makes homage to this. There are many nods to the original film, the story is much the same and some of the sequences are the same shot by shot. However, it runs as more of a parallel. For example, some of the characters names are slightly different and of course there is the inevitable major twist to shake the foundations of the tale we know and love. The twist could be seen miles off but this does not matter, Disney films have always been predictable whether they follow the stereotype or not. It is an intriguing, tasteful and interesting take on the original story, adapting it well for a new audience and making us have second thoughts about the villain we loved to hate. We get to see the other side of the story which only makes the Sleeping Beauty tale more clever, detailed and heartwarming. They need to do this with more of their villains!
Most importantly the style of Maleficent is completely the opposite to that of the 1959 Sleeping Beauty. Princess Aurora, portrayed by the beautiful Elle Fanning, is as fair and pretty as in the film, and the countryside cottage in which she lives is just as pastoral and idyllic. In contrast though is the dark world of King Stefan and Maleficent. Sexy, dark, gothic and medieval it is the perfect setting and atmosphere for the horned fairy. Jolie handpicked Lana Del Rey to sing the theme song, a fitting haunting version of 'Once Upon A Dream' that casts a spell over the film. The whole style is haunting and most importantly magical, but in a dark sense, there are no sparkly tiaras and glittery wands here. The designers have worked their socks off and it really has paid off. Every single outfit is jaw-droppingly stunning and suitably gothic, especially for Maleficent whose look was inspired by Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way'. You can tell director Robert Stromberg is an expert in visual effects with this being one of the strongest aspects of the film. 3D or 2D you will be happily absorbed into this world!
Casting Angelina Jolie as Maleficent caused much discussion and argument amongst fans, but no one can doubt after viewing the film that she perfected the role. Complete with full red lips, feathered shoulder pads, magnificent horns, vast black wings and the sharpest cheekbones you will ever see, she is stunning and certainly looks the part. Jolie has a presence about her throughout the film, bringing the character to life and giving her extra dimensions. It is impossible not to fall in love with Maleficent as we see other sides to the character, but thankfully she retains her evil and mischievous streak. The cursing scene is the most chilling and memorable thanks to Jolie's stirring cackle and her dark humour seems completely natural. Although Jolie is the star the other actors give great performances too. Fanning is delightful as Aurora, Sharlto Copley is venomous and paranoid as the obsessive King Stefan and it is always a delight to see Sam Riley given the recognition he deserves.
A neat twist on the original Sleeping Beauty, although you can see the twist from miles off, Maleficent is everything you would want from a story of female empowerment with a victimised villain. Jolie brings the character to life giving her many dimensions and complications to keep us intrigued. The rest of the cast also do well, but the designers are the stars creating a magically haunting, absorbing world. Look out for Jolie's daughter Vivienne being adorable and the cutest baby in the world!