Moving Pictures
Jun 02, 2014, 06:49AM

Eight Notes On Maleficent

The new Disney film challenges everything they taught us about Sleeping Beauty.

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If you didn’t rush out to see Maleficent this weekend because you’re a massive Disney dork villain freak fan like I am (bona fides: wore Disney Maleficent pin to the movie), don’t read this. I don’t want to hear whining about spoilers. Just a few quick observations:

  1. I was completely captivated by the film, absolutely loved it and would see it again. Angelina Jolie is brilliant in the role, bringing subtlety and emotion I haven’t seen in any other of her movies. I thought she was flawless, and I don’t just mean her insane makeup and Paris runway-worthy costumes. I even love that her real-life daughter (Vivienne Jolie-Pitt) plays the 5-year-old Aurora; their scene together is adorable.
  2. I agree with most of Matt Zoller Seitz's review at rogerebert.com if you want to read a good one. He puts into perspective things like the extreme digital special effects, plot holes and other aspects of the film. (“The movie is a mess, but it's a rich mess. It has weight. It matters.”)
  3. I thought Elle Fanning was annoying as Sleeping Beauty, and I was glad she wasn’t onscreen any more than she was. It’s a movie designed to minimize the princess (no pink or blue dress for you, honey) and maximize the villain-who’s-not-anymore, so it’s probably ok not to love Fanning.
  4. Brave and Frozen and The Hunger Games and Wicked are where it’s at in pop culture right now: the strong female lead character isn’t going anywhere, and I think it’s fantastic. The days of princesses being rescued by princes are pretty much over, thank Gloria Steinem. Mulan blazed an early “who needs a prince” trail and challenged gender stereotypes, and Maleficent shatters them, even if it does rely too heavily on the Wicked story for inspiration.
  5. There was a real opportunity for humor with the three fairies who raise Aurora in the forest; it was missed. They could have really been hilarious, providing much-needed comic relief, instead they were just lame.
  6. There’s been much talk about the de-winging of Maleficent in one of the film’s most dramatic scenes. I think some of the “rethinking fairy tale rape” discussions are a bit much and I doubt the screenwriter Linda Woolverton (who wrote The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast) intended so many allegorical comparisons in a PG Disney movie. It’s an emotionally charged, symbolic scene in a well-written film. Period.
  7. I’m going to be humming Lana Del Ray’s “Once Upon a Dream” for weeks. It’s haunting and brilliant.
  8. I love the plot twists. I love the idea of loving the villain because she’s not the villain everyone has always said she is. There was a point in the movie (the Christening scene) in which I had to learn to (ahem) “let it go” in terms of the original Sleeping Beauty animated film my girls all watched and knew by heart. “But Maleficent doesn’t undo the curse with the true love thing, it’s supposed to be the third fairy” went through my head, and then I said oh, no I’m not going to do that to myself where I keep expecting things to happen and once I did that, I fully enjoyed the rest of this powerful film.


-Follow Mary McCarthy on Twitter @marymac.

  • Loved reading your review, now I am even more excited to see the movie. Glad you included the stuff about movies with strong female characters, I hope they keep going strong as well. And am going to check out Lana's song right now!

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