★★★ / ★★★★
Her wings taken away while she slept, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) a faerie who protects the Moors, vows to get vengeance from the human she thought she loved and loved her back. Since the betrayal, Stefan (Sharlto Copley), a human, has been rewarded the crown, gotten married, and had a child.
It is the day of the the princess’ christening and Maleficent, uninvited, comes to visit. Her present: a curse that will take effect upon the newborn’s sixteenth birthday. Once she pricks her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, she will succumb to a very deep sleep and may never waken unless she receives a true love’s kiss.
Written by Linda Woolverton and directed by Robert Stromberg, “Maleficent” boasts splendid visuals and a confidence to offer an alternative perspective with respect to the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty. For the most part, it is enjoyable to watch. Its weakness, however, lies in some of the characterization of the main players from the original story, from the handsome prince (Brenton Thwaites) to the three pixies (Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, Juno Temple) who raise the infant away from the castle.
Jolie does a wonderful job playing an iconic character. I was suspect whether she could pull off the sweeter moments required in order for the audience to sympathize with her character because she has a natural harsh look. Despite the dark and heavy makeup, she is able to control her face in such a way that the sharp cheekbones appear a little bit softer. However, the magic, as always, is in the eyes. She is able to deliver different and subtle expressions through them depending on the turn of events. Imagine someone else in the same role with only one look. It would have been a disaster because the character would likely have become a caricature.
Although the picture is teeming with visually striking computer graphic images, they do not always work. To me, a lot of the scenes in the Moors look superficial and fake. It is one thing to create various mythic creatures but it is another to overdo how the plants look. The grass and trees look like they come straight off a fantasy world. This is most unnecessary. The only part where CGI plants work is when giant, thorny vines surround the Moors in order to protect the place and its inhabitants from the invading humans.
Perhaps more unpleasant to look at is the three pixies. Whoever thought that it is a good idea to put the actors’ faces on animated bodies ought to have been asked to leave the planning room. I was at a loss as to why having ten-inch pixies were deemed necessary when they transform themselves to the height of humans eventually. Why not simply give Staunton, Manville, and Temple wings and had been allowed to fly once in a while?
The prince might just as well not have appeared in the movie. A part of me was very amused because he is required to do only three things: ride a horse, fall asleep, and kiss the princess. The character might as well have been mute because when he does speak, the content is fluff and easily forgotten. And yet a part of me felt that he should have had a more prominent role. In what way? Perhaps it might have been a good idea for the screenwriter to give him a trait that is absent from the original work. Here, it gives the impression that he is shown for the sake of making an appearance.
I was surprised because I found myself emotionally invested in Maleficent’s redemption. It is refreshing to see that there is no hero or heroine to show the “villain” the error of her ways. There is no grand speeches, only silences and observation. Though she has magical powers, she is as powerless as the humans when it comes to doing things out of anger that cannot be undone.