Film Review: Maleficent

MALEFICENT

Disney’s Maleficent is a rich fairy tale which should prove beguiling to viewers.

A young fairy grows up in a peaceful forest which neighbours a human kingdom. As Maleficent grows up, a betrayal sets in motion a series of events which has consequences for both worlds…

Robert Stromberg’s directorial debut is an aural and visual fantasy feast. The director’s visual effects background is clear from the outset. Notwithstanding, the story is also strong; functioning as a compelling retelling of a well-known tale.

Screenwriter Linda Woolverton’s narrative works to both provide back story to the Sleeping Beauty tale, and to subvert it to make its antagonist more rounded. More than a one-sided villain, Maleficent is given shades to make her character more compelling in this version. Perhaps it says something that she is most enthralling when she is bad, nevertheless the portrayal is satisfying overall.

The influence of recent Disney films is present in Maleficent. This is by no means a bad thing; but simply means that the film may have a twist that some viewers will predict. Nevertheless, the depiction here is a healthy one, that few will find fault with.

Like Woolverton’s work in Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent is a darker fairy tale that still remains accessible for family audiences. The small elements of humour work well to bring lightness. The film would be less family friendly without these moments.

The art direction and costuming plays a substantial role in Maleficent. The effects are also superb, and the cinematography makes the most of its striking subjects. There is some marvellous silhouetting, and camera work in transporting viewers through the fantasy landscape.

Angelina Jolie shines as the title character. She brings a suitable campness to the role of Maleficent. Elle Fanning is well cast as Aurora, and Sharlto Copley is on good form as Stefan.

Maleficent is a highly entertaining fantasy, combining traditions of classical Disney with that of the emerging direction of the studio.

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