“Maleficent” marks the first of Disney’s forays into live action fairy tales. It also marks the Directorial debut of 2 time Oscar winning (“Avatar” & 2010’s “Alice In Wonderland”) art director Robert Stromberg. It is a visually striking movie starring Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning.
The story of the movie takes place in a kingdom divided in two. The human side and the moors ruled by Maleficent, the most powerful fairy. The humans are hungry for power and jealous of the magic and riches that are rumored to be in the moors. They have come into the moors to try and steel the riches and the power for themselves. This is what feeds the tension and is the source of the movie’s plot.
The movie has high production values but, it is not driven by heavy special effects and epic battles. The story is aided by and not over taken by the bright and beautiful computer animation. The creatures that inhabit the world of the moors are used sparingly and never become a gimmick. They are used to add context and depth to story.
At the heart of the movie is a surprising love story that feels powerful and genuine. Angelina Jolie turns in a wonderful performance as Maleficent. The character of Maleficent is bigger than life and Jolie could have easily turned in a performance that was one note and nothing new. I think that it speaks to the maturity of Jolie and the vision of the Stromberg that Maleficent ends up being a complex and layered character.
Since this is Maleficent’s tale she is really the only character that gets a story that feels rich enough to understand all of the motivations of her actions. All of the other characters are used in the service of her narrative. Sharlto Copley does well as Stefan, but the wide arc of his character never is adequately explained, and rings hollow. Aurora as brought to life by Elle Fanning, is given no room to for depth. The story only gave her character so many directions that she could go. She has to be loved by everyone and she has to fulfill her role as the cursed princess.
This is a good movie for mothers and teen or pre-teen daughters to see together. Younger children will enjoy some of the bigger special effects and the world of the moors, but they may not understand or sit thru the movies quieter moments. The movie is thematically consistent with the traditional Disney tale, but certain aspects make it so that children who are too young might not understand the ending.
“Maleficent” is rated PG.