Directed by Robert Stromberg
Based on the story “La Belle au bois dormant” by Charles Perrault
Also based on the Sleeping Beauty (1959) screenplay by Erdman Penner
Screenplay by Linda Woolverton
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Brenton Thwaites, Sam Riley
Once a peaceful fairy, Maleficent (Jolie) has become a vengeful sorceress bent on revenge against King Stefan (Copley). After the birth of his daughter Aurora (Fanning), Maleficent curses the child to get back at Stefan. As time passes, Maleficent begins to reconsider the wisdom of her revenge.
This film is another live-action re-imagination of a classic Disney film. The story is built on the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty, but updates by Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast). She took the classic story by Charles Perrault, and the screenplay by Erdman Penner (Lady and the Tramp), and gave it a number of new twists and turns. Oscar winner Robert Stromberg (Avatar) directed the film. This was his directorial debut after winning two Oscars for Best Art Direction. The title role is played by Angelina Jolie (Gone in 60 Seconds). Elle Fanning (Super 8), Sharlto Copley (District 9), Brenton Thwaites (The Giver), and Sam Riley (On the Road) also star in this one.
The story written for this film is interesting, but doesn’t always seem to work as it wants to. The intention seemed to be giving Maleficent a more sympathetic background. This includes moments from childhood as well as the events that sparked her rage. Unfortunately, this information weakened the character a lot. Instead of the wicked and somewhat mysterious villain that Disney fans have loved for more than 50 years, this is a complex character that doesn’t live up to expectation. It might have been better to tell this story as a whole new fantasy since it would’ve removed much of the expectation from fans of the Disney classic. The rest of the story has some interesting moments, but lives with a number of changes in tone that leave it feeling a bit unbalanced. Overall, this movie suffers from a story identity crisis that can’t be ignored despite some great moments throughout.
The acting in this movie does a good job bringing the story to life despite the story issues. Jolie seems comfortable bringing out the more callous and angry moments of her character. She also seemed to understand the background of her role and how the emotions would play into things. Elle Fanning also does a pretty good job with her role. Like Jolie, she seemed to understand the emotions her character would be feeling throughout the story. These two share some good moments in the movie.
Sharlto Copley, Brenton Thwaites, and Sam Riley also do good work with their roles. Unfortunately, the writing let them down at times. Copley is good in the later moments of the film, bringing out the anger and frustration of a King and father. Overall, the cast does as much as they could with the weakness of the script.
The production of this movie does have some nice aspects. The visual effects and art direction really bring this world to life in wonderful ways. The costuming is one of the better aspects of the film. Costume designer Anna B. Sheppard (Schindler’s List) was nominated for an Oscar for her work on this one. The film also features a nice score, written by James Newton Howard (My Best Friend’s Wedding).
Overall, this is probably a movie that younger audiences will enjoy since they might not have Sleeping Beauty to compare it to. While it’s not the same story, the character comparisons are inevitable. Otherwise, this is one that die-hard Disney fans might enjoy. I would also suggest this one to people in love with fantasy. One other group who might enjoy this are fans of impressive visuals. Otherwise, this is one you might not need to see. I give this one 2.9 out of 5 stars.