Director: Robert Stromberg
Taking a different slant on Disney's Sleeping Beauty, we finally see what the famed villainess' motive was for cursing the baby Aurora (Fanning). Maleficent (Jolie) grew up a fairy, amongst the magical land adjacent to the humans'. Meeting Stephan (Copley), a young boy who has wandered across the border, she falls in love with him, only to be deserted when he turns sixteen and gets the chance to work for the human King. Years later, the greedy monarch (Cranham) turns his sights toward the magical lands, wanting to destroy the creatures he doesn't understand, but when he is injured in battle, fighting the creatures led by Maleficent, he pledges the succession upon anyone who can defeat the now warrior-esque fairy queen. Stephan, hungry for the crown, returns to the magical land to be reunited with his childhood love. Betrayal ensues and the birth of a wicked villain, who vows to have revenge on her former lover.
The film only barely clings to its PG rating, but this is more than a Disney film for kids. There's an adult wit to the script, even if it drifts into silliness at time (but a silliness that somehow seems all the more credible for its deadpan and, dare I say it, fierce delivery). The updating of the story does at times drift from the original that we all know and love, but it is quite refreshing to see the script allowing itself to take a couple of liberties without straying into ludicrous battles and pointless additional conflict. If Aurora had put on a breastplate and stormed into battle a la Kristen Stewart I would probably have walked out of the cinema, but fortunately Aurora remained the feeble young girl she has always been, with Phillip not much more than a teenage sap. Saying this, Elle Fanning was a bit more Sleeping Pretty than Sleeping Beauty, but I guess Scarlett Johansson is too old now and you can't ask Mia Wasikowska to play every feeble young girl in cinema.
It's about time that one of these modern fairytales justified the money and faith the studios have invested in them. While I doubt Maleficient will be remembered as a family classic, it's a fine example of modern fantasy at its most refined. And best of all, you'll find yourself quoting Maleficent for weeks, whether you aspire to be Angelina Jolie or not (which, obviously, I do). If you like magic, Disney, Jolie, fierce bitches, fairies, GIFable soundbites, Lana Del Rey or just plain old fashioned cinema spectacle, this film is for you. If not... well, go and watch Requiem For A Dream and be cynical elsewhere.