WARNING: This review contains major spoilers
Scroll down at your own risk!
To my friends and family, it is no secret that I adored the movie, Sleeping Beauty. Critically speaking, it’s the perfect Disney film with a great script and plot. There’s a threat of danger, the promise of love and not to mention the beautifully written music and songs sung by the amazing Mary Costa.
So how does this classic Disney movie compare the upgraded storytelling of the witch Maleficent? Let’s take a look at a few comparisons and get ‘critical’ on the Jolie-flick, shall we?
[Regarding my review format (the good/bat/in-between), I’ll be changing it up this time, and review in comparison to the movie it is based off; Sleeping Beauty]
Let’s start with the beginning of the film:
Comparison: Roots of Evil
In Maleficent we see a young version of the evil fairy, showing us a bit of what she was like before she became the most feared witch of all. We saw a softer, vulnerable, young girl than we would expect. This side of her reveals that she is indeed a fairy before her wings are torn off by King Stephan. This very closely resembles the early version of the 1600s fairytale, marking her as an evil fairy (although the King Stephan romance was never mentioned).
In Sleeping Beauty we don’t get to see this ‘childhood’ of Maleficent at all; thus making her more mysterious to the viewer.
Yes, I do believe that Maleficent began the film by attempting to prove true to the fairy tale, adding a bit more depth to the character than the original, Sleeping Beauty, by engaging us in her history, and the romance she had with King Stephan. However, what I find disappointing is that Stephan was a mere peasant. -not an heir to the throne. A concept that was very clear in the original (as in REAL history), was that the throne was to be married into or inherited. Which was the whole purpose of arranging the marriage between Aurora and Price Phillip in the first place -right? That was the first mistake. Sure, having Stephan tear her wings off gave her a reason to be furious with him -enough to the point where cursing his child just might be justified. But could it have really been difficult to write him in as the prince who fell in love with Maleficent? The prince who tore her wings off to avenge his Father’s death?? That tiny change which was totally do-able -to me, would have been a lot more believable.
Comparison: The Curse
In Sleeping Beauty, “…before the sun sets on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, and DIE!”
In Maleficent, “…before the sun sets on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, and fall into a death-like sleep!”
Umm…one is not like the other -definitely. But which is better? In my opinion, the threat of impending death is probably the one I would go with. (duh!). One says, she’s going to die. the other says, she’s going to sleep for a long time -oh, but don’t worry -she’ll wake with a kiss. Of all lines from the film, and this was the most disappointing in the movie. In fact, while I sat and watched, and waited for her to shout out, “and DIE!” -only to hear, “death-like sleep” -I was tempted to stand up and walk out. But I decided to give the film a chance, in hopes I’d see her turn into a dragon….uhh we’ll get to that in a bit…. getting back to the curse, hearing it as a child -the threat of death was definitely intense, the background music being played was intense, I actually felt terrified by the Sleeping Beauty version as a kid, even now, i still feel it’s much more intense as at least the threat of death was there. I understand the movie Maleficent was intended for children, but if the 1959 cartoon Disney version went there… why not this one?
Comparison: Prince Phillip
In Sleeping Beauty, Prince Phillip was the gallant, Strong, brave prince who was captured by Maleficent and won the heart of Aurora, and killed the ‘maleficent dragon’, saving the entire kingdom from her wickedness (and not to mention his wonderful singing voice). Also, he gets captured at some point by Maleficent and she states her plans to release him when he is old and grey to find Aurora near death in her slumber -basically teasing at his failure.
In Maleficent, Prince Phillip was a puny little boy who seemed to be lost at first, and was used as a failed attempt at mis-direction which only regarded him useless in the entire film. Seriously, they could have had the whole movie without him if Maleficent was the one who was going to plan the kiss anyway. He was merely a waste of space that no one cared about.
Comparison: The Three Fairies
Flora, Fauna, and Merrywheather made up the trio of fairies in Sleeping beauty. They raised the princess in a cottage in hopes of never being found by Maleficent. They were smart enough to care for a child, yet at her 16th birthday, they still can’t figure out how to crack an egg. Their secret is kept for the most part -until Maleficent’s crow, Diablo discovers them using their magic to make a dress for Aurora’s birthday. Furthermore, the fairies were a stronger dynamic in the Disney classic because they engaged in the main plot a lot more -by helping Prince Philip get through to the castle and giving him the sword and shield needed to fight the dragon.
In Maleficent, the fairies names where changed into… some unmemorable ones, and they are shown as dim-witted and ignorant to caring for the child. Big difference besides that is, Maleficent knew where they had been keeping the child the whole time, and even had saved her from certain peril throughout her child hood- becoming a more motherly figure towards Aurora. Sure, it was comical to hear her call the child a ‘beast’, and walking up to the cottage window telling the child, ‘I hate you’. But this pretty much changes the whole persona of the character through the story. It’s one thing to show us her perspective, it’s another to change the story completely to make the villain appear a saint.
Comparison: True Love’s Kiss
In Sleeping Beauty, Prince Phillip has to go through several obstacles to get to his princess, and free her from the curse. The suspense was built as he had to hack through a wall of thorns, defeat and kill Maleficent after she had turned into an enormous dragon, and find his way back to the castle. We know that previous to this he had not only met with Aurora in the woods, but actually spent time with her, got to know her, so much so that they would lose track of time as they were out in the evenings, so it was believable that these two actually did fall in love making the ‘true love’s kiss’ a believable happy ending. Hell, they had guts just to go to the forbidden mountain to set the prince free!
In Maleficent, she herself gives the princess true loves kiss, although not in a pedophile lesbian way -more like a motherly peck on the forehead. The suspense is then built up after the kiss… where she turns her crow into a dragon instead of being one herself. And then, trades her long black robe for what looks like a tight cat suit, and inevitably kills King Stephan. Meanwhile, princess Aurora is awkwardly just standing there watching everything. All of this would have been better laid out had it happened BEFORE the kiss waking Aurora.
Overall this movie was definitely fun to watch, and a great family film (more for kids). Angelina Jolie’s performance was amazing! However, the storyline itself was botched. Even without comparing this to the original Disney classic, it has a few plot holes, and a jumbled script that just didn’t make much sense as a whole. The entire movie was basically, ‘i just cursed this girl to get back at her father, but i like her now, but I can’t release the curse. Oh, well ..*kiss* let’s go to my fairy kingdom where i’m not really a queen but you can be’
That kind of story just doesn’t fly in my book. Especially with the actually fairy tale calls for a Wich who does not have mercy on the princess… I understand they want to shed like on a villain and show her as a ‘good guy’ but there are other ways of doing this without changing the entire plot of the story it’s based off of. A great example would be the musical ‘Wicked’, who successfully tied in the story of Dorothy and the Ruby slippers, while allowing us to relate the wicked witch. Why couldn’t we have that here?
Again as I said, the story was botched, the plot fell short, and if someone gave me the choice to re-watch the original Sleeping Beauty, or Maleficent… I’d rather see the cartoon because it has that dark element.
For this reason, I’ll be giving this movie 3 stars out of 10.
I know what you’re thinking …’ouch’, right?
In all honesty, I needed that darkness from the original, they made the attempt but it just didn’t fly with me.
If you have any questions, comments, feel free Ask me anything. :-)
Fun Facts about the film:
*Angelina Jolie worked very closely with the costume and make-up designers to develop Maleficent’s menacing look. Disney executives objected, hoping to take advantage of Jolie’s beauty in marketing the film, but the actress insisted that the character maintain the scarier look of the animated incarnation.
*Angelina Jolie picked Lana Del Rey herself to be the one to sing a version of Sleeping Beauty (1959)’s “Once Upon a Dream” as the main theme for the film.
*Angelina Jolie did the stunts herself using harnesses for her flight and battle scenes.
*By coincidence, Maleficent (2014) will be released on May 30, 2014; precisely the same year as the 55th anniversary of Walt Disney’s classic Sleeping Beauty (1959).
*In order to give the fairies a proper feeling of featherweight and agility, the three actresses who performs the fairies, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton and Juno Temple, spent three weeks filming motion capture, while being guided by artists of Cirque du Soleil. Lesley Manville called this experience “just fantastic”.
*Maleficent’s prosthetics and make-up were inspired by singer Lady Gaga, particularly on her “Born This Way” album cover.
*Miranda Richardson was cast as Queen Ulla, but her role ended up being cut.