Based on the 1959 Disney animated classic Sleeping Beauty, but perhaps taking more inspiration from the stage musical Wicked, this live-action adventure re-imagines the fairy tale from the villain’s perspective.
There are two kingdoms, one ruled by man and another by fantastical creatures. While Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) starts out as a good fairy, she is betrayed and consequently puts a curse on the King’s daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning). On her sixteenth birthday, she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and be sent into an eternal sleep. Of course, the only way to break the spell is by true loves kiss.
Pintsize fairies Flittle (Lesley Manville), Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton) and Thistletwit (Juno Temple) are tasked with protecting Aurora until after her sixteenth birthday, but curiosity for the magical realm gets the better of her.
In his directorial debut, Robert Stromberg previously worked as visual effects supervisor on the likes of Life of Pi and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. As such, his creative flair touches every part of the production. From swooping aerial scenes with the winged Maleficent to the magical creatures that inhabit the Avatar-like forest kingdom, it is all best appreciated in 3D. Comparisons can also be drawn to Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and Oz the Great and Powerful, which Stromberg also worked on.
Angelina Jolie is spellbinding and perfectly cast as Maleficent. Likewise, Elle Fanning is suitably innocent and endearing as the giggly Disney Princess Aurora. Maleficent never descends into the levels of darkness that you might imagine, instead caring for the cursed child from the shadows with the help of Diaval (Sam Riley). But villainy is all about perspective, and here the character with the darkest soul is Sharlto Copley’s Stefan.
Special mention also goes to the haunting end credits song ‘Once upon a Dream’ by Lana Del Rey.
Maleficent is a captivating family adventure that successfully re-imagines the classic fairy tale. Though it might make you guiltily attracted to one of Disney’s greatest villains...