UK Release Date: 28th May 2014
Runtime: 97 minutes
Director: Robert Stromberg
Writer: Linda Wolverton
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville
Synopsis: The classic story of Sleeping Beauty is told from the side of the fairy forced into evil by a treacherous lover.
Everyone knows the story of Sleeping Beauty. And everyone also knows that, in the wake of blockbuster fare like Snow White & The Huntsman, Hollywood loves revisionist fairytale storytelling. Fortunately, Maleficent’s reimagining of a classic tale comes with a great central performance and an awful lot of bite.
Powerful young fairy Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and other magical creatures live in a utopian society separate from humanity. But she soon falls in love with a human man (Sharlto Copley) and becomes tragically embroiled in his fiendish ascent to the throne. Such is Maleficent’s rage that, with the help of shape-shifter Diaval (Sam Riley) she curses the new king’s daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning) to die on her sixteenth birthday.
Bravely, Maleficent eschews dutiful adaptation of the 1959 animated story, instead crafting its own narrative around Disney’s iconic characters. Like the hugely popular musical Wicked, the film transforms and twists the story around a new perspective, adding depth and dimension to characters who were previously paper-thin.
| "I had wings once, and they were strong. But they were stolen from me."
At the centre of Maleficent is a terrific Angelina Jolie performance. She has spent several years behind the camera on serious indie fare, but returns to the screen here with a perfectly pitched display of dripping evil and tender emotion. Her fairy is forced into evil by the actions of others and, even in her darkest moments, Jolie keeps her sympathetic.
It’s a performance she delivers with real relish, a cut-glass accent and some truly unnerving prosthetic cheekbones. As the insanity of the world around her amplifies, she gives a masterclass of controlled madness, channelling Eleanor Audley without creating a mere imitation.
Elle Fanning, Sam Riley and Sharlto Copley – the latter unrecognisable without his South African twang – also thrive, but there is never any question that this is Jolie’s movie from start to finish.
| "What I have done is unforgivable. I was so lost in hatred and revenge.”
Many were sceptical in the run-up to the release of Maleficent about the directorial skills of Robert Stromberg, previously best known as the Production Designer for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. However, Stromberg’s direction is assured and his visual effects team produce a world that is capable of containing effervescent colour and spell-binding darkness in equal measure.
Maleficent is a gothic, romantic, mature story that is perfect for a family cinema trip. Clocking in at less than 100 minutes, it is also a prime example of how to keep a blockbuster brief, which is a talent that should not be understated.
Pop or Poop?
By far the best entry in the revisionist fairytale genre, Maleficent is a film that stands tall as one of the best blockbusters of 2014 so far.
Powered by a stunning turn from Angelina Jolie and a director with visual flair in spades, the film will satisfy audiences of all ages and tastes.
It’s rare that a film has truly universal appeal, but Maleficent could just be Disney’s next fairytale classic.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.