Movies: Maleficent

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Sharlto Copley
Directed By: Robert Stromberg
Written By: Linda Woolverton
Disney, 2014
PG; 97 mins
5 stars (out of 5)


When my son, now eight, was about three years old, I showed him Disney's animated feature Sleeping Beauty and he immediately made a connection between me and Maleficent. I wasn't sure quite how to take that. Did I seem evil somehow? Unkind? But no, as it turned out, that wasn't it at all. My son saw me as powerful. Capable of magic. Even believed me able to turn into a dragon.

Still, isn't it a little awful that the depiction of a strong woman is equal to her being shown as a villainess? Or in more modern-day parlance and movies, a bitch?

Even though Sleeping Beauty was one of my favorites as a child (that one and Sword in the Stone), I didn't have much interest in Maleficent. I almost didn't bother to go; it was the thought of cinema popcorn that actually coaxed me into it. And I am oh so glad I did see it. Maleficent was immensely enjoyable.

Most interesting about the movie is the fact there is no single villain throughout. Maleficent starts out good; Stefan does too, more or less, though we first meet him as a thief and he is admittedly ambitious. It is betrayal on various fronts that engenders anger and evil throughout the movie. When people act out of anger, greed, fear, revenge—this is when things go wrong. And these emotions only propagate one another, breeding more of themselves in heart after heart.

And love, of course, is what drives these feelings away. Compassion, kindness, generosity, etc.

It's a very simple lesson told well here. My son, the one who so long ago likened me to Maleficent, came out of the cinema and said he liked that, "Sometimes she was the bad guy, and then it was the king, too."

I'll say the latest "true love's kiss" fad is already getting old. But whatever. This is small in the big scheme of the film.

I especially enjoyed Sam Riley as Diaval, but then again, I always liked Maleficent's raven in the cartoon as well. I have an affinity for blackbirds. Nice makeup choices, too, with the almost scar-like skin formations that show he is no natural human.

In any case, I wholly enjoyed Maleficent. Not only did it tell an old story in a new way, it told it well, and delivered its age-old messages in a palatable package.

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