So apparently Disney wanted to cash in on its old properties by making live action remakes of their animated classics. First on the list appeared to be Sleeping Beauty, with a focus on the iconic villain from that story, Maleficent. In other words, give the story a Wicked treatment. What they came up instead was…well…fucking batshit insane.
The film begins with Maleficent as a beautiful winged fairy who protects her magical land from an old greedy king. Unable to stop her, he offers his crown to whoever can kill Maleficent. Enter Sharlto Copley as Stefan, an old childhood boyfriend of Maleficent who also has a greedy streak of his own. At this point, I was thinking: “okay they’re going with a betrayal sorta thing.” It’s lazy, but serviceable…until Stefan goes about his business by first seducing Maleficent, giving her a roofie and ripping off her fucking wings as proof of his deed to the king.
I cannot stress the word “roofie” enough, the scene is fucking dark as hell for a damn children’s movie. Plus, Jolie’s reaction to her ordeal is so clearly stylized as someone having just survived a sexual assault, that it leads little to the imagination as to what they were intending. After the traumatic Act I, we get a retelling of Sleeping Beauty with Maleficent’s curse on Stefan’s baby being the first act of her revenge. At this point I was expecting the film to go all I Spit on Your Grave from this point forward…instead, we get Maleficent actually raising and protecting the baby she just cursed as her fairy caretakers are so pathetically incompetent that they blissfully let the princess fall off a damn cliff.
So yeah, Maleficent isn’t even evil in this movie. It turns into a redemption arc portraying her as the hero of the story (because it worked so well for Star Wars and Anakin Skywalker). And no, Maleficent doesn’t turn into her iconic dragon. As for the rest of this mess, Jolie is in fact perfect as Maleficent and she’s wonderful when evil (though admittedly it’s far too brief). The rest of the cast didn’t have much to do and the creature designs are too lazy to get excited about.
Honestly this film started off like a dark fairy tale with Feminist undertones as directed by Darren Aronofsky, but as Disney found out what was happening, they fired whoever was writing and directing and stitched together a sloppy resolution to the whole affair. The Feminist undertones are clumsily handled and the revisionist take comes out of left field that any connection falls flat. Rent the movie if you want to see it, but for God’s sake don’t take your kids to see this mess. Then again, I saw pretty messed up stuff as a kid…remember The Neverending Story‘s horse scene?