Film Notes: Malefecient

Maleficient - Photo credit Disney Studios

“Maleficient” is is an old story with a new twist that worked for me. When I went in to see the film I was unsure what to expect. But, at the end of 90 odd minutes I must confess I quite enjoyed watching the film.

Reimagine hearing the story of  “Sleeping Beauty,” from the perspective of “Maleficient,” the wicked witch, who cursed Sleeping Beauty.  That is what the film is about and it takes you to a whole different world of fairies and elves and magical powers.

Maleficent is a fictional Disney character  first introduced in Disney’s 1959 version of “Sleeping Beauty.” This year marks the 55th anniversary of the film. I must confess I have not seen the original film.

We meet a young and happy-go-lucky Maleficient (Angelina Jolie), who lives in the moors with other fairies and elves. We watch her friendship with a young and awkward young Stefan (Sharlto Copley) grow. Things take a horrible turn when Stefan unexpectedly turns against his fairy friend.

To fulfill his burning ambition Stefan betrays  his love, and ends up being crowned as the king. Maleficent is devastated and is deeply hurt. And out of that hurt is born a sense of revenge. When Stefan’s child Aurora (Elle Fanning) is born Maleficient casts that famous curse.

Stefan packs off his new born child in the care of 3 fairies to a far-off cottage. How Aurora grows up and what happens to Maleficient makes up the rest of the tale that comes with an unexpected twist. You see she thinks Maleficient is her godmother.

I only wish they had shown the 3 impish pixies: Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), Flittle (Lesley Manville) and Thislewit (Juno Temple) a little bit more. These impish fairies provided the comic relief with their pixie charms and antics with a little bit of help from the wicked witch Maleficient.

Maleficient” is Robert Stromberg’s directorial debut. He previously won 2 Academy Awards for production design for “Avatar” and “Alice In Wonderland.” This might explain why the production design of “Maleficient” is striking. It is something that you do notice, especially the fairy world that is a mix of bright and happy colors with darker elements.

Linda Woolverton wrote the screenplay for this film. She previously wrote “The Lion King’ and “Beauty and Beast” for Disney.

Jolie looks the part of the wicket witch with her striking makeup, horns and black flowing gown. You needed no convincing. She plays the role with great ease and infuses her character with unexpected sympathy that went down well the audience from what I could see. She clearly seems to have enjoyed playing the role of the wicked witch.

Fanning is a perfect foil to Jolie’s dark and somewhat brooding character, who is intent in extracting her revenge.  She sparkles in her role as the young teenage Snow White.

For someone like me, who grew in the pre-Internet world and read  conventional fairytale books this film was an interesting departure. In conventional fairytales the world is presented in black and white terms – the good are really good, while the bad are truly wicked. Now imagine a fairytale character that is an amalgamation of good and bad and you will see where the reimagining of the character started. And oh! if you are wondering about the title “Maleficient” it seems to be a combination of malevolence and magnificent and that should give you a hint of what you can expect to see. And since this is a Disney film good almost always triumphs evil, does it not?

Maleficient” releases in San Francisco bay area today.

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley and Juno Temple.

Director: Robert Stromberg

Time: 97 minutes

Photo courtesy: Walt Disney Studio.