Like many of those familiar with the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty and its 1959 Disney movie, I was eager to see some light shed on the villain’s backstory in this hyped live-action retelling. Unfortunately, Maleficent falls short and ends up being a predictable story with only some commendable acting and visuals to support it.
The plot centers around Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), a kind and powerful fairy whose land is invaded by human neighbors, causing her to become the magical beings’ leader. Maleficent experiences a tragic betrayal that turns here evil and leads her to curse the lovely, innocent Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning, Super 8) to a deathlike sleep—but soon Maleficent starts to change her views and see Aurora’s valuable nature.
This twisted retelling had the potential to be interesting, but it is ruined with predictable plot points. For example, the reasons behind Maleficent’s change in nature are easy to deduce with the plot’s buildup, and thus the transformation simply becomes unimaginative. Even a “plot twist” in Aurora’s awakening scene, which is meant to be dramatic and emotional, is completely underwhelming due to its predictability. A voiceover narration moves the story along feebly, and supporting characters like King Stefan (Sharito Copley, Elysium) are tossed aside in terms of character development.
The film did have some redeeming factors despite these weaknesses. Hollywood star Angelina Jolie shines as Maleficent, particularly in the villain scenes where her mannerisms and delivery of lines sell the wicked, sinister role. Elle Fanning also delights as Princess Aurora, giving the somewhat one-dimensional character an endearing quality. The film spends a lot of time developing the relationship between Maleficent and Aurora, and the two actress’ believable mother-daughter dynamic is admirable.
Maleficent’s visual effects are exemplary for the most part, which is no surprise with visual effects expert Robert Stromberg as the director. While the creatures that occupy the magical lands in the film are created with comparatively poor CGI work, the landscapes are gorgeously executed with colorful and ethereal natural aspects. The character Maleficent is also visually impressive, specifically with her regal horns and broad, vivid wings.
Sadly, success in these other regards fails to save the movie overall. Although it lacks Angelina Jolie and all the spectacular effects, I’d much rather just re-watch the original Disney version.