Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Everybody loves a good villain. Who can forget the menacing Sith Lord Darth Vader, who fought to destroy peace in the entire galaxy? Or the psychotic ‘Clown Prince of Crime’, known only as The Joker, who sought to plunge Gotham City into absolute chaos? Indeed, every now and then, a great villain comes along and becomes a classical figure in pop culture, remembered for all kinds of evil deeds that people just love to hate. Perhaps the most iconic of all villains, however, is the Sorceress Maleficent. Remembered as the antagonist in Disney’s 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty, the dark witch returns to the silver screen this season as the titular character in Disney’s ‘Maleficent’.
In the film, Disney attempts to retell the story of the princess Aurora, except through the eyes of the sorceress herself. The film showcases the witch’s backstory as a pure-hearted faerie, and her transition into the classic villain, famed for her curse of eternal sleep. Angelina Jolie stars as the iconic figure of Maleficent, while Sam Riley, Elle Fanning, and Sharlto Copley round out the supporting cast. Robert Stromberg takes the helm as director, as Disney breathes life into the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty.
The film attempts to recreate the magic of the original animated film, but falls short for a variety of reasons, the first of which is the lack of character depth. Every character in the film besides the sorceress seemed alarmingly flat. The princess Aurora seemed to lack any sort of depth or complexity, while other characters, such as Prince Philip or King Stefon, are one-note, and largely unmemorable. While the movie was based on a children’s animated film from the 1950’s, more liberties could have been taken with the source material to make it more interesting to modern audiences.
Another serious flaw of the film was its lack of pacing. Several parts of the film seemed too long and were largely unimportant, and could have been cut or simply edited down. On the other hand, a large number of parts seemed rushed and did not last long enough, and should have been extended. The end result was that a large portion of the movie seemed to drag, leaving other segments rushed and unevenly paced. This led the entire film, as whole, to feel anti-climactic. And while the movie had a few memorable scenes to its credit, it, in general, seemed like it could have been edited better.
Still, for all its shortcomings, ‘Maleficent’ does have a few redeeming factors. The most prominent of these redeeming qualities is Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of the titular character. Jolie excels in the role, and masterfully portrays all aspects of the iconic sorceress, from her beginnings as the powerful protector of the land of the faeries, to her transformation into the villainous witch. Her magnificent presence brings to life the character of Maleficent, and she outshines every other actor on screen as she steals the show.
The film also deserves to be praised for its visual effects and production, with settings that seemed magical and enchanting. The effects used, especially in the action sequences, were truly a sight to behold. Excellent computer-generated graphics and production design helped make the movie, despite its shortcomings, still an entertaining affair.
All in all, ‘Maleficent’ falls short of being a true fantasy epic. With a story that suffers from pacing issues and an anti-climactic plot, coupled with a largely forgettable cast, the movie may not be what you expect, especially if you’re hoping for a deep and complex retelling of the classic Disney tale. However, if looking for a simple movie to enjoy with family or friends, ‘Maleficent’ just may be worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of Jolie’s previous work.
After all, everybody loves a good villain.