Disney risked a lot with Maleficent, a ‘reimagining’ of their iconic Sleeping Beauty that has been updated with an ironic twist – that maybe the evil Maleficent is’t as bad as we’ve been led to believe. The studio off-set the risk somewhat by casting Angelina Jolie in the title role, meaning that many mothers (and fathers) would be dragging their kids to see this, rather than the other way around. $750 million in global ticket sales later, it would seem like the risk paid off in a financial sense, but the film is lacking on a story level. I hate the modern trend which sees films set up as a franchise or a trilogy, but I feel that the myth of Maleficent would have been better spread over two or three movies, rather than one (relatively) slight one.
I fully understand that producer Jolie, writer Linda Woolverton and director Robert Stromberg were making a film for children (and a Disney branded one at that) but Maleficent skips along at such a brisk pace, and covers so much plot. that there’s very little depth to the whole endeavour. The darker aspects of the film are glossed over, but why even have them in the film at all? There’s a thinly veiled metaphor for rape when Maleficent is drugged by her friend Stefan (Sharlto Copley), before having her wings cut off ,which raises many interesting questions but these are totally disregarded (and probably rightfully so). This may have suited a more adult telling of the story, and it doesn’t really belong in a Disney film which will be used to sell lunch boxes.
Stromberg has a strong eye and the film is loaded with some wonderful visuals which give it a storybook quality. There are plenty of nods back to the original animated classic, which will be a joy for eagle-eyed parents and kids alike. The $180 million budget is on the screen, but at times you wish there was more practical effects work to give it a tangible quality.
Maleficent was Angelina Jolie’s pet project and she attacks the role with a certain amount of glee, giving the iconic villain enough back-story and heart to make the role feel unique. Jolie could have gone broader with her performance, but she holds back without ever dipping into pantomime territory.
A well made film, Maleficent should keep children entertained over the course of its 90 minute running time. Parents will be impressed by the special effects, but those looking for a truly dark retelling of Sleeping Beauty will have to look elsewhere.
The blu-ray for Maleficent comes with a plethora of extras which show how much effort went into brining the film to the screen. There’s enough for adults and children, but this will really just make you want to watch Disney’s original Sleeping Beauty.
Available on 3D BLU-RAY, BLU RAY™ & DVD 20th October 2014