If you want to see “Maleficent,” my advice is to remind yourself of the movie’s rating: PG.
As the enchanting world of “Maleficent” is revealed through panning camera shots and cheesy narration, you may think to yourself, “This is going to be terrible!”
And you would be right. For the average college student, “Maleficent” is a terrible use of your time. For the average 7-year-old, though, this film could be a fantastical dream, and I thus give it a tentative nod of approval.
Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is transformed from her purely evil and sadistic nature in the 1959 animation to a multidimensional, sympathetic and undeniably attractive fairy who boasts of being the most powerful creature in her fairy kingdom.
“Maleficent” begins by illustrating two kingdoms, one of miserable humans under a tyrannical king, and one of mystical creatures who are so filled with peace and good will that they need no leader. We begin with a young, winged Maleficent, frolicking with her magical friends, until she suddenly finds a young boy named Stefan, from the human kingdom.
Stefan continues visiting her, and the two fall in love. However, Stefan is soon consumed by his earthly ambitions, and he steals Maleficent’s wings in order to become successor to the king. Stefan’s wish is granted, and Maleficent grows into a vengeful, angry creature bent on ruining Stefan’s happiness.
You may recognize this next part—baby Aurora is born, cursed, and lives in the forest for nearly 16 years. As we learn, Maleficent was benevolently watching over Aurora the whole time, even inviting her into the fairy kingdom, which had long been closed off to humans after Stefan’s betrayal.
Aurora (Elle Fanning) mistakenly believes Maleficent to be her fairy godmother, until she realizes the truth about her curse the day before her 16th birthday. What follows is an unlikely ending to a classic fairy tale about good, evil and the nature of true love.
As one might expect the promotional trailers, Jolie carried the movie. It seemed that the entire film was made solely to utilize Jolie’s cheekbones to create an honest depiction of Maleficent. This would account for the weak screenwriting and generally unconvincing CGI—the whole “Maleficent” team long ago decided that Jolie’s cheekbones alone would be enough to make “Maleficent” a box office hit. This obvious advantage, along with Jolie’s dark, empathetic and, at times, humorous interpretation of Maleficent’s character, made the movie bearable and, sometimes, genuinely entertaining.
To be fair, the movie had solid moments aside from Jolie. Fanning was consistently charming—I felt instantly calmer when she was on the screen, as it meant we were removed from Sharlto Copley’s upsetting performance as King Stefan. The one scene the two actors shared further emphasized Fanning’s impressive portrayal of a naïve monarch-to-be and Copley’s emotionally disturbed and entirely unsympathetic Stefan.
After reassessing the movie as a 7-year-old, I began to appreciate some of its finer points. “Maleficent” suggests that evil is usually a product of some great misfortune, and (in true Disney fashion) we should look for humanity in those who lash out against others. Ultimately, I can appreciate the good-natured take on a long-hated Disney villain, and recommend this film to anyone still under the age of 10. Otherwise, it may be worth seeing something else.