“What an awkward situation,” says Angelina Jolie. This is a line in the film that should have been the title of “Maleficent.”
Don’t get me wrong, Angelina Jolie totally knocks her performance out of the park with those cheek bones, red lips and fiery attitude, but the film itself is lost in a mediocre storyline and poor CGI/special effects. If only this story would have been as strong as the latest Disney live-action film, “Cinderella.”
“Maleficent” tells the story of the well-known Disney villain from “Sleeping Beauty.” Maleficent (Jolie) is a fairy living in the magical land on the other side of the kingdom. The two lands clash, as the kingdom is scared to interact with the fairies and magical creatures. However, when Maleficent is a young girl, she meets Stefan, a boy destined to end up as King someday so that he can get away from the farm. The two begin a friendship, that soon turns into love. On Maleficent’s 16th birthday, the two of them share true love’s kiss, which sends Maleficent into a love-filled frenzy. But, as the years go on, Stefan disappears, leaving Maleficent a little heartbroken.
To make things worse, King Henry (played by Kenneth Cranham) is destined to destroy the magical land and take down Maleficent. Him and his soldiers fail miserably on the first try, as no one can match Maleficent’s power. She ends up injuring King Henry and sending him to his death bed, where he later proclaims that any man who can take care of Maleficent will proceed as King when he dies. Of course older Stefan (played by Sharlto Copley) works for King Henry and decides it is up to him to become King.
Since Stefan knows Maleficent, he approaches her with love and tries to tell her how much he missed her. The two of them spend the evening together in the magical forest. Stefan ends up putting something in Maleficent’s drink that sends her to sleep, and instead of killing her, he takes her wings to show the King that she is gone. Maleficent awakes, broken, sad and angry and decides to time to become Queen of the magical forest. A land once living with happiness and no ruler is now overcome with blackness.
After Stefan becomes King, him and his wife have a baby together, Aurora. Maleficent hears of the news after her messenger, Diaval (played by Sam Riley), breaks the news to Maleficent. She decides it is time to bestow a gift on the child and shows up at the palace to give her a curse: that on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on a spindle and fall into a deep sleep. The only way she can awake from this sleep is from a true love’s kiss. The King summons three kind magical fairies, Flittle (played by Lesley Manville), Knotgrass (played by Imelda Staunton) and Thistletwit (played by Juno Temple), to hide baby Aurora in a cottage in the forest and not to return until the day after her 16th birthday.
So, now teenager Aurora (played by Elle Fanning) is starting to discover the world while her “aunts” take care of her. She is full of wonder and kindness and soon meets Maleficent. Aurora believes Maleficent is her fairy godmother because Maleficent has been around the cottage, watching Aurora since she was a baby. The two of them being an unlikely friendship, that makes Aurora happy to have Maleficent in her life. However, Aurora doesn’t really know who Maleficent is and what happened to her when she was a little baby.
Angelina Jolie definitely carries the film and was born to play this fierce role. She is elegant, beautiful and has a solid mix of good and evil in her. If only the rest of the cast was up to par with her. For example, Elle Fanning doesn’t have a whole lot to work with except smile and be overly happy. It’s almost obnoxious. Then we have Sharlto Copley as the grownup Stefan. His part is one note and poorly written. And it’s not just some of the characters that are poorly written, it’s the story written by Linda Woolverton (“The Lion King” “Beauty and the Beast” “Alice in Wonderland” (2010)), as well.
Let’s start with this whole romance between Maleficent and Stefan. It’s rushed and awkwardly developed. They go from loving each other to all of a sudden Stefan disappearing. Then Stefan decides, “Oh, I want to be king so I am going to cut off her wings and forget about love all together.” There is no development between the love and power that drives Stefan into this psycho frenzy. Then you have the three fairies who are ordered to hide baby Aurora in a cottage in the woods. I haven’t seen the original “Sleeping Beauty” in a long time, but is that how the story goes? It makes no sense to me. Of course Maleficent is going to find Aurora in the woods. Why does it matter if Aurora is hiding or not?
As for the direction from Robert Stomberg, I expected more. Sure this is his feature debut as a director, but the man has won two Oscars for his art direction in films like “Avatar” and “Alice in Wonderland.” Here the CGI looks incredibly cheap and cheesy, and the direction is choppy. Stomberg does borrow from “Avatar” and “Alice in Wonderland,” but it doesn’t work here.
“Maleficent” is a huge disappointment from Disney. It should have been so much better, especially since Angelina Jolie tries to give it her all. And I hear they are making a sequel…I would skip that. Rated PG.