It seems the world has been waiting with bated breath for Angelina Jolie to come back to the big screen, playing the iconic, creepy, yet gorgeous lead in Maleficent. She hasn't starred in a live-action film since 2010's The Tourist, though she's made plenty of headlines in the meantime -- from her views on celebrities and parenthood to of course her massive brood to her double mastectomy. So needless to say, although Angie embodies Maleficent perfectly and masterfully, it's kind of funny and jarring to see her flying around the friendly skies with some huge ass wings and horns on her head.
Angie is, of course, stunning, a diva, an exotic dark fairy, a woman scorned, and she does bring another interesting side to the villain from 1959's Sleeping Beauty that was sorely lacking. But sadly, everything else about the film falls rather short -- from the overuse of poor-quality CGI to the other actors to the uninteresting, safe plot.
On a side note, I think it's safe to say that, of course, besides the amazing music, Wicked, another take on the villain's side of the story, works because it seamlessly flowed into the original material we all know and love. It was more of a behind-the-scenes look from Elphaba's point of view, even if we did have to stretch our imaginations just a tiny bit.
Maleficent, on the other hand, is a complete retelling of Sleeping Beauty, no matter what the trailers may seem like. Some fans of the original fairy tale may be sorely disappointed and very confused. Maleficent, a young fairy, falls in love with Stefan (Sharlto Copley). He eventually betrays her in the worst way possible to become king, then he has a daughter, Aurora (Elle Fanning). At Aurora's christening, Maleficent curses the very adorable baby, saying she will prick her finger on her 16th birthday on a spinning wheel and fall into an eternal sleep. After some begging by Stefan, Maleficent says that only true love's kiss will wake her up -- knowing that true love, after her experience with Stefan, well, it simply doesn't exist.
Some of these initial scenes play out word-for-word, mirroring the original Disney movie, but then it pretty much takes a life of its own. Maleficent basically becomes a surrogate parent to little Aurora -- and ends up regretting her curse.
This also leads to an amazing, very much hyped scene between a tiny Aurora, played by Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, and her mother. It was probably (sadly) the highlight of the movie, seeing the two of them interact, their obvious chemistry, insanely cute Vivienne unable to hide her blissful love for her mother, while Angie holds her at arm's length, declaring, "I hate children." When we all know that is most definitely not the case ...
But then the story deviated so much from the original fairy tale that it felt like it could have been its own original movie. A dark fairy-turned-fairy godmother starring Angelina would have worked all on its own. For heaven's sake, when Aurora fulfilled the "curse" and pricked her finger, she slept for the length of a power nap until she got her "kiss" and woke up. Plus, Elle as Aurora just did not work for me. She wasn't at all what I pictured Aurora to look like growing up on Sleeping Beauty, and she got more annoying and irritating than anything sweet and innocent.
Though Angelina of course looked flawless and sexy and spectacular as the evil/motherly Maleficent, pulling off those horns unlike any actress ever could. Sporting huge, bright red lips, cheekbones that could cut diamonds, huge CGI-tinted eyes, and a body most would commit murder for at 38, Angelina is back and better than ever. This movie almost seemed like an homage to her beauty, with close-up after close-up of her enviable features. She is simply perfect for the role.
If the script were any stronger -- perhaps a little darker, even scarier, or incorporating the original fairy tale better -- it would have been an instant classic. Folks will go in really wanting to like this movie, and really pulling for Angelina, but after my viewing, I have a feeling I will forget about this movie by next month. It was wonderful seeing Angelina in her prime, and you know everyone will go to see this just to talk about her. The visuals were also fantastic and the scenery breathtaking. But with a weak script, way too much distracting, poorly executed CGI, a disjointed story, and all the other actors weaker than their leading lady, it may be a one-time viewing experience for many, many people who were hoping for more.
Maleficent is rated PG and premieres May 30, 2014.
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Image via Disney