Here’s the long-awaited episode of Hollywood’s leading ladies made evil. “Maleficent”—an interestingly twisted story of Maleficent, the evil witch without whom the tale Sleeping Beauty simply would never be heard of. Surely you’d known the story… Sleeping Beauty, in which Princess Aurora was cursed by an evil witch (no one hardly knows her name) with a spell that makes her, the Princess, fall into a deep sleep upon prickling her finger on a spindle. A fairy tale ending in supposedly magical, unsurprisingly usual, happily ever after closing; an ending that makes every girl dreams of her prince charming and of a true love kiss.
But, this story—Maleficent—isn’t like any tales. It moves away from stereotypical princess stories to a 180 degree tale-telling angle, that is by delivering story lines from a somewhat evil villain’s point of view. Unlike most recent adaptations of fairy tales on big screens such as “Mirror Mirror” and “Snow White and the Huntsman” (both adaptations of Snow White), of which outcome was never in favour of the villain, Maleficent carries the message of love and beauty any souls in the Universe may possess in them regardless what their skins may like. It also underlines invaluable lessons and wisdom any children and adults may learn from—of care and compassions, and of the potential evil within us. More importantly, through this movie, we are reminded, again, that people do change. For it is God who changes people’s hearts. So, always have hope that those who hurt or harm us will eventually treat us well, or even love us; yet never get too disappointed when someone close to your heart turn against you. Things just happen!
Enough said about the morale, let’s now discuss more on the technicality of this movie.
Even my husband, who’s the least likely audience of mushy movies and fairy tales, admitted that Maleficent was a really good movie. Despite his negative remark on the symbolism of the two horns on Maleficent’s head, representing the greater evil lurking to pry on lost souls and innocent lives in this world, he praised the quality and intricacy of visual graphics of this movie. He basically adored every little detail crafted to make the Moors, a magical kingdom inhabited by creatures beyond this world, come to live. All the little fairies and their cute complexions and playfulness, what a scenery.
It was however really odd to have Maleficent the only fairy of her kind—larger, prettier, with two strong wings like a bird and two masculine horns like an antelope. She should at least have a father and mother. Or, at the least, any playmate of her species? That I should say.
Anyway, the character Maleficent really suits Angelina Jolie, like the role was tailor-made for her. Her protruding cheekbones, her deep eyes, her reassuring lips and her natural disposition are simply made for the role.
Did anyone ever know Maleficent was a fairy before she was a witch?
We see her loving and carefree childhood and adolescent. We see her bravery and the warrior in her in her adulthood. Yet we see innocence, above all, to believe in love. Next we witness her transformation, from belief to disbelief, from love and compassion to hatred and vengeance. We see how light turns into darkness. The rest of the story was engaging and, honestly, comical at some points. Overall, entertaining.
The role of Diaval, a poor raven Maleficent saved and turned into human, only to make him her wings and spying eyes, was a smart support to the leading character. He spiced up the whole complex love and vengeance thing. A shape shifter not of his own will, this crow-minded right-hand man was unexpectedly loyal and caring. He was turned into human, back into a raven, then into a wolf, a horse, a dragon… Yes, he complaint, “What have you done to my beautiful self?”. But he stood by his master even when she told him to leave. What more you want from a man who would be anything you’d like him to be. I’d say that having gentle Diaval is a perfect compliment to Maleficent’s strong being.
Another smart role was the three lunatic (and somewhat idiotic), over the moon little fairies—Knotgrass (the pink pixie), Flittle (the blue pixie) and Thistlewit (the green pixie). Played by Imelda Staunton, who brilliantly played Dolores Umbridge, the cunning, strict and unforgiving replacement principle of Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows, bubbly Knotgrass took charge of the other two in her own wicked motherly way. Flittle (Lesley Manville) being mischievous and Thistlewit (Juno Temple) being slightly off were great combos with the elder pixie. They were surely fun to watch. (I’m glad they didn’t use the original names of the fairies—Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. They were surely different.)
Despite some clever characters other than Maleficent herself, I would say the rest are mediocre. I do understand why Elle Fanning was cast for the role Princess Aurora. Apparently they intended to showcase more of her innocence and purity. But to me, unfortunately, it was a bit too plain. No character whatsoever. Her supposed Prince Charming even worse, super plain. Or perhaps they had intended him to be as least significant as possible.
One may eventually wonder why there wasn’t any scenes that showcase emotional connection between the Princess and her darkened father, King Stefan. It would definitely be more interesting to see the power struggle—between the Princess’ birth father and her witch godmother—to win over her heart. Or why wasn’t any scripts filmed to shed some lights to the demised queen and their people on the reason for all this animosity. The film would certainly get more complex for the larger audience.
However, maybe it was meant to be just like that to cater to generic family audience. Emphasis in visual graphics, story lines and morale were deemed more important. I don’t know. But, it was indeed a good entertainment worthy to enjoy with your family. It was indeed the value presented across that kept me watching (Really? Not what Angelina Jolie’s going to do next?).
There was one interesting scene when I thought the script was going to go with the conventional Sleeping Beauty that we heard of—the Prince kissing the sleeping Princess and the Princess woke up. When the Prince’s kiss didn’t wake her up, I thought, predicting what’s going to happen next, “Could the shape-shifting raven be her true love?” My mind bewildered intensely as I watched the scene where Maleficent and Diaval the raven approached Aurora’s bedside when the Prince’s kiss didn’t budge her a bit. Then Maleficent began to show intensity on her face, remorseful and in tear. And there and then, I guessed, “Her true love is Maleficent.”
Indeed Aurora woke up after her godmother’s kiss on her forehead. There you have it, the best ending ever put across in fairy tales. Sincere love doesn’t have to be between boys and girls, doesn’t have to be between those blood-related. It can be among the most unlikely people brought together simply by fate.
Last but not least, before I end this review, let’s ponder upon these two strong points learnt from the movie:
- Narrator: “Sometimes the hero and the villain are one and the same.”
Who do you think seems to be a hero in public but actually the mastermind of some evil doings in this world? Have your villain really changed? Or have they acted to deceive you?
Have you yourself felt that you could, at times, be a villain, and a hero at other times? Which one do you struggle more towards?
- Narrator: “So you see, the story is not quite as you were told. And I should know, for I was the one they called Sleeping Beauty.” Hmmm… so who shared this different story about Maleficent again? Sleeping Beauty herself? LOL.