Maleficent has been a long time coming. After numerous re-shoots and re-workings of the script, the re-imagining of one of Disney’s most iconic fairy-tale adaptations always seemed, to an extent, doomed from the start. With Oz the Great and Powerful receiving terrible reviews there seemed little hope for a film like Maleficent that was evidently following in its footsteps. Since the success of Broadway musical Wicked, Disney appears to have cottoned on to the idea of retelling a familiar story with the villain taking centre stage. Similarly to the stage show in question, Maleficent also attempts to tell the story of a not so villainous villain who, as it turns out, is not exactly evil but just simply misunderstood. Starting with a rather unoriginal premise and a rather unstable production process, Maleficent looked set to be a shambles. With Angelina Jolie taking centre stage in this adaptation of an adaptation, there seemed to be a single glimmer of hope thanks to this solid and consistent actress. I went into Maleficent with pretty low expectations and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t a complete disaster. The story goes like this: Maleficent seeks revenge on a boy whom she once loved; a boy who betrayed her and broke her innocent heart. After revelling in her anger and sorrow, which involves cursing Princess Aurora and determining her to become a ‘sleeping beauty’, Maleficent sees the error of her ways and assists more heavily in the task of awakening the princess than the fairy-tale originally led us to believe. Of course, Jolie remains the film’s saving grace but there are several other characteristics that separate this from the rest of the garbage Disney often churns out for its consistently loyal, youthful fan base.
Firstly, the film doesn’t outstay its welcome. At a proper and precise ninety minutes in length, Maleficent says what it has to say and then promptly concludes. Nothing is drawn out and the narrative progresses nicely. There is no unnecessary flare to hide the limitations of the story, instead Maleficent just gets on with telling its tale. The story is interesting enough and remains aesthetically loyal to Sleeping Beauty which many viewers will find pleasing. Jolie balances humour, PG rated horror and a pantomime camp-ness as the film’s antagonist whilst the likes of Imelda Staunton, Sam Riley and Lesley Manville are well cast and make it easier to like the film. Elle Fanning is not bad but not great, perhaps trapped in a badly developed character. Sharlto Copley, who I have consistently struggled to like and enjoy on-screen, is nothing short of diabolical as the violent King Stefan, a leader set on a path of paranoia and destruction. The script is pretty poor but pretty forgivable, adding to the pantomime eccentricity of the whole affair. There are an abundance of problems with Maleficent but it does not irritate or offend. With our summer currently complying with the great British tradition of rain, rain, clouds and rain, a trip to Maleficent on a wet and windy evening wouldn’t be a terrible idea. On a miserable Wednesday evening it will suffice. Maleficent is set to end up in the supermarket bargain bucket at £4.99 but until then it’s happy enough to mildly entertain cinema-goers throughout a pretty bland summer.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.