I must admit I was looking forward to this movie with more anticipation than I have felt in a long time. What sold me was how visually stunning Angelina Jolie looked in the trailer, the essential ambiguity of the character, and that it would be an entirely different take on a classic story. With a name like Maleficent you know she's got to be bad, and when Angelina Jolie is good she's very good. When she's bad she's better.
And the movie based peripherally on the Perrault fairy-tale, fulfilled it's promise for me and develops the story of a character from the previous Disney movie. Yes I could gape at Angelina for two hours and be quite happy but I wanted more. I did not want the tale of sleeping beauty retold but I did want a great story, a great visual experience, and Disney delivered all three, and a rather complex character who is both good and bad, at times the hero, at times the victim, the destroyer and savior.
As a young girl she leads an idyllic life in a visually beautiful and not quite real world, not quite an animated world. She meets a young boy and falls in love. The boy is a thief, and ambitious, she a fairy from the wrong side of the moors, he an overreaching boy who lives close to the castle. They come from different worlds. He from a world that threatens her world. She knows all this and loves him anyway. He is her first human experience and her first love experience. Yes she has hair-horns, but she is a good girl, and she has wonderful powerful wings and can soar to the heavens, like an angel. She also has unusually large cheekbones which only add to her mystique.
An ambitious King threatens to invade her land, and she uses her magical powers to thwart them. Then something terrible happens which would destroy most people let alone a fairy, and she seeks what you know of as her revenge on an innocent baby. There is no moral equivalence between what happened and what she does which is simply awful. But then fairy tales are all about the dark side, and this is where we understand but do not agree that she uses her power for a dark purpose.
Still we have hope for her that although the girl she once was is lost, that there may be redemption for her, and that redemption may inhabit the form of an innocent onto whom she wrongly displaced the emotion of hate, but she has cast an unbreakable and fatal spell which can only be slightly changed by a good fairy. Will her character come full circle and she become good again, or will she be forever damaged. Can the tragic spell be broken? Can the broken girl be fixed?
We have an interesting character, a raven which she saves, who she transforms into a human form, which is quite interesting. The one thing I thought did not work very well was the comic relief provided by the fairies. Perhaps Maleficent should have cast a spell and actually made them funny, but visually the movie was a treat. I particularly liked a bit where she flew out through a window, I though it was an iconic image.
It's very clear that much care and thought has gone into the movie as visual art. The look of Maleficent is perfect, the story is great, the look of fairyland is great and I have a sneaking suspicion that with the success of this movie which did a mind boggling $70 million on its opening weekend, we will have more of a mixture of hero villain characters reflecting the full human duality flying to a theater near you.
I really enjoyed this movie and am so tempted to go back and see it in 3D. After watching reboots of Spider Man, Superman, Robocop and Xmen recently it's refreshing to see something this fresh and invigorating, and with some star power.
Whether this is suitable for children I cannot say, someone aged 8 and above would probably be fine, but some younger children could find it scary. It certainly appealed to me as an adult.
I think most people will love it, and I hope this was helpful.