Twitter Plot Summary: The big bad from Sleeping Beauty has her story retold, because apparently that film was wrong.
Five Point Summary:
1. Some dodgy accents and child acting.
2. She’s a woman spurned. Right…
3. Those fairy godmothers are irritating.
4. Sharlto Copley Presents: Staring Moodily Into The Middle Distance.
5. Love’s true kiss… ugh.
In the latest of Disney’s efforts to make a live action interpretation of one of their animated classics, Maleficent retcons the events of Sleeping Beauty to make the titular big bad a touch more sympathetic than her sinister “the child must die!” level of villainy as seen in the original film and fable. It gets off to a bad start as we meet a young Maleficent and the monstrous CGI creation that is the land in which she lives. She encounters a young boy, Stefan, and they form a bond, blah blah blah. This in itself is bad enough, but when combined with the terribly cringeworthy acting of the two youngsters, it becomes almost unbearable. Thankfully this sequence doesn’t outstay its welcome and time soon pushes on to an older Maleficent in the much more capable hands of Angelina Jolie. At this point we also meet the older Stefan, now morphed into the equally as competent form of Sharlto Copley.
There are a number of changes to the original tale, but these don’t jar quite as much as the revisionist approach taken to Maleficent and her attitude towards the princess. Here she’s portrayed as being a fairy godmother of the young princess rather than the all-conquering evil force she deserves to be, having previously inflicted the princess with a curse so powerful that even Maleficent cannot break it. Suffice to say, the princess will prick her finger on the needle of a spinning wheel before the sun sets on her 16th birthday, and as the years pass and they spend time together, Maleficent soon realises the error of her ways.
The three fairies, who look after the princess as she grows from a baby to athe age of 16, provide a small level of comic relief, but whilst they’re moderately bearable in their full-sized human form, they are borderline irritating in their original, six inch tall and entirely CGI form. Sharlto Copley makes the most of his role as King Stefan despite an occasionally wobbly Scots accent. Unfortunately his character also lacks any redeeming qualities – both in terms of relatability or sympathy from the audience, and in terms of serving any sort of purpose to the story itself. His character does little beyond stare menacingly into the middle distance and there is little more depth or indication of motivations to him beyond his obsession over Maleficent. This is not given nearly enough screen time and deserved to be expanded upon.
If there’s anything positive to be said, it’s that Angelina Jolie is perfectly cast as Maleficent but doesn’t have a script that makes the most of the character. It would have been far better to keep Maleficent a much more sinister creation, deliciously evil rather than mundane and spending 16 years babysitting. Sam Riley is perhaps the only one who comes out from the other side of this unscathed, his crow servant Diaval displaying pathos and comedic moments with aplomb.
Oh, and the final set of armour worn by Copley is most impressive, giving the finale a feel of a live action interpretation of the Dark Souls video games. In fact, if more of the film had followed this pattern there would be much less to complain about. Instead it is a poor relation to the original, and you’re perhaps better served by sticking with that version of the story, if not for the glorious animation but for the fact the story makes much more sense.