Maleficient movie still

Image courtesy of Motion Picture Company/Walt Disney Pictures


By Lori Garrett | published June 10, 2014 |
Thursday Review contributor

I have been anticipating Maleficent for about two years now. See, one of my many mental hobbies is casting dream film roles, and I have always stood firm in my decision of Angelina Jolie playing this character. Those intelligent eyes, the high cheek bones and angular face, her strength of presence and ability to own a room all add up to the perfect actress to play the iconic Mistress of All Evil. I was thinking about this back when Hackers came out, which was long before Jolie was a household name. So, of course when I heard she was attached to the project, I was overly excited.

It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for evil characters. I mean, you know for the most part of why the good guy is the good guy-because being good is the right thing to do. That’s not a bad lesson to learn. But I’m interested in why the bad guy is just so darn bad. There are multiple sides to every story, and the stories that interest me are the ones rarely told. In general, you are shown the bad guy, and told “this is the bad guy; we don’t like him/her because he/she is evil.” And so we don’t like them. When the characters are particularly bad, we in fact “love to hate them.” To me, they kind of took away from the character of Maleficent when they turned her into more of an anti-hero.

Of course, this being a Disney movie, it wasn’t like I was expecting a crazy villain story. I was kind of expecting Maleficent to do for the title character what Wicked did for the Wicked Witch of the West, but to a lesser degree. What I got was a story about a girl scorned and a grudge held. Instead of making her complex, she was relegated to a two-dimensional character. Instead of being gloriously evil, she was simply portrayed as a misguided good guy. I’m not saying that the story is altogether bad; I’m not even saying that I’m unhappy with the movie. I’m just saying that I wanted more.

Was Maleficent visually stunning? Absolutely. Was it one of the best special effects laden movies I have ever seen? Yes. Was it overwhelmingly ‘Disney’? Maybe a little.

Maleficent was helmed by first time director, Robert Stromberg and stars Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning (Super 8, We Bought a Zoo), and Sharlto Copley (Elysium, The A-Team) who all did well in their roles. Using a person with a strong visual effects background to direct was ingenious. The sets and animations were particularly pleasing. (Stromberg has 94 credits under his belt in the visual effects department, including The Hunger Games and Life of Pi) The only thing lacking was actual depth in the story itself.

All said this is worth seeing in the theaters. If your small child is easily frightened, they may get a little nervous during the last battle (yes, there is an amazing dragon) but otherwise it’s safe for all viewers. All the kids in the theater, of which there were many, seemed more inclined to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the movie, rather than hide their eyes.

And a side note to Disney; when you eventually do this again, hopefully with Ursula (hint hint, I do remember a line in The Little Mermaid when she references having lived in the castle) please give her a really awesome reason for her evil ways. Something that has nothing to do with a man or love. And please at least consider Sherri Shepherd for the role. She’s pretty great.