“Royalty. Nobility. Gentry. How quaint. Even the rabble.”
In 2012, there were three different attempts to create a more contemporary films away from the classic, formulaic fairy tale of Snow White: Pablo Berger’s Blancanieves, Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and The Huntsmen, and Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror. Disney also begin to revamp their Princesses films and began to make a huge impact through Frozen (2013). Princesses are not merely damsels in distress that needs the heroes to save them anymore, Disney revolutionize the concept of prince charming and happily ever after. Going bold to recapture the meaning of true loves and going more vague in its concept of good vs evil. The studio now re-interprets one of its classics, Sleeping Beauty (1959). The twist is, instead of merely remaking the predecessor although still told from the point of view of its antagonist, the film shines a new light on the backstory of the studio most iconic villain, Maleficent.
I grew up reading one of those Disney princess books and their films, so i know the story of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty by heart. The tale begun at an earlier timeline compare to the classic fairy tale, it begun before King Stefan was a King and Maleficent was not malicious. Once upon a time, there’s a faery called Maleficent (Angelina Jolie). She led an idyllic life in the Moors befriend Stefan (Sharlto Copley) and share puppy love romance and a ‘true love kiss’ in their youths. As the time goes by they grew apart. When Moors was disturbed by the greed of the men, Stefan return only to seize what he desires by all means possible. Followed by one of the most traumatic moments in children films, Maleficent decided to seek her own revenge through the new-born baby daughter of Stefan, Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning).
Under the direction of first time director Robert Stromberg, a long time visual artist and production designer (Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, Oz The Great and Powerful), the film definitely have a strong visuals. I found them to be overwhelming (not as much as Oz) but still felt unnecessary and overpowering the need of the story. In a way the story alone could is a singular character journey (of Maleficent) and if it is aims for a more mature audience it could explore the poignant, darker themes especially relating to gender and sexual themes that occurred in the beginning of the film (let’s called it the traumatizing Maleficent experience). However, the film seemed to be targeting children as its main audience, thus the film fits itself into a wondrous fantasy film with magical creatures and glow-in-the-dark forrest a la avatar. Repeatedly. Only to developed in to a more adolescent territory later in the film: just add one Prince to the mix.
However there’s an eco-theological message that is embedded within the film that i appreciate in the film: the greed of men that usually brought destructions and despairs upon themselves. While some saw the film as having a queer subtext, i felt the film explored ‘true love’ in a more multifaceted universal level. Just like Frozen (2013) the ‘love’ are breaking the traditional ‘love between a man and a women’ criteria that usually found in princesses films and rather showing different kinds of love that could transcend between anyone. (Cue the music to Macklemore’s Same Love here)
There’s a lot of wasted talents in the casts, not too surprising if it’s true that the casts were partially chosen just for their physical likeness to their classic animated characters counterparts. Elle Fanning really looked the part for Aurora with her rosy cheek and fair beauty, but that’s just it. The three pixies (Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple) appears annoying instead of serving as the comic relief. The three characters that i actually enjoy was Sam Riley as Diaval, the right-hand raven of Maleficent; Sharlto Coopley in his monologue as King Stefan, and of course, Angelina Jolie herself. Jolie delivers a great performance after her 4-year hiatus, showing the strength of her acting that i rarely see in the last decades (which actually made me want to watch her in Girl, Interupted again). Sporting the prosthetic cheekbones (reminded me of Gaga’s in Born This Way), majestic robes, leather, horns, and ruby lips. If this film is aimed for adult, i would love to see more dark edge and depth of her character, that we can see glimpses of its already just under the surface. Her performance was chilling and definitely did justice to the iconic villain.
I never thought the story of Maleficent could be so heart-rending, Jolie embodied her anguish and her desires. But she was placed in the wrong film to be able to truly soar. Her performance is the only saving grace of the film. At the very end, i kinda wished to see Tarsem Singh hand on the film instead and perhaps paired together with a more mature script. I think it’s better than the half-hearted mess that we got instead.
GENRE Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
DIRECTOR Robert Stromberg | PRODUCER Joe Roth | WRITER Linda Woolverton | CINEMATOGRAPHER Dean Semler | MUSIC James Newton Howard | EDITOR Chris Lebenzon, Richard Pearson | STUDIO Walt Disney Pictures, Roth Films | DISTRIBUTOR Walt Disney Studios Pictures | COUNTRY United States, United Kingdom | RUNNING TIME 97 minutes | BUDGET $180 Million | RATING PG for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images | RELEASE May 30, 2013 (US)
STARRING Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Janet McTeer
DID YOU KNOW? Maleficent released on May 30th, which coincide with the 55th Anniversary of Walt Disney’s classic Sleeping Beauty (1959). Along with the release of the film, MAC cosmetics collaborates with the film to release MAC x Maleficent make up collection for Summer 2014. The colors are dominated by neutral browns and nudes, with splashes of reds and black.