Movie Review: “Maleficent” – Magnificent

Written by Caitlin Cooper June 19, 2014


Fairytale retellings are not a new concept, but live-action depictions of such stories seem to be gaining popularity. “Maleficent” is the beginning of Disney creating such films which take the original animated movies to a more complex level. “Maleficent” tells the story of Disney’s popular evil fairy. What made Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) become twisted? One act of betrayal sets her on a path of revenge against King Stefan (Sharlto Copley), whose quest for power has been at the expense of others. When Maleficent learns that King Stefan is holding a christening for his newborn daughter (Elle Fanning), she is determined to hurt him the way he hurt her. But the story isn’t black-and-white. We see Maleficent struggle with her actions while Stefan’s paranoia consumes him.

I am a long-time fan of Disney’s fairytale movies. So when I heard about the tale being spun differently for the live-action adaptation, I was intrigued. The animated “Sleeping Beauty” is a relatively simple movie, but “Maleficent” has complex characters and emotions. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton added so much to the story which makes the characters understandable and human. Characters that were one-dimensional have more depth here. Something that I really appreciated is the details Woolverton carried over from the animation. Some aspects, like Maleficent’s crow (Sam Riley), are included but altered to add more depth to the story.

“I was so lost in hatred and revenge.”

Maleficent herself is a well-written character. She was innocent, naive, and trusting. She just wanted to be loved and when she was betrayed, she let her pain corrupt her. While she does become a dark character for most of the film, it doesn’t feel like it’s true darkness. Maleficent is just deeply hurt, and she happens to spend years holding onto that pain. We can see the cracks in her armour when she plays funny tricks, helps Aurora, and begins to doubt herself. These vulnerabilities make her character human, and gives us the ability to sympathize with her. The character probably wouldn’t have been as successful if Jolie hadn’t taken on the role. Jolie is so good at playing Maleficent as an evil fairy, but she’s even better at playing Maleficent as a good, strong woman. Her cackle is pretty awesome when she appears at the christening, but the subtleties Jolie uses to convey Maleficent’s struggles afterwards are what make this film mostly character-driven.

The character of Aurora is also more complex in “Maleficent”. She isn’t there to be pretty and fall in love with someone she barely knows. She learns about life and she fights for those she loves. I absolutely love that the character is given this treatment because it makes our investment in the film stronger as we root for her and cheer when she learns the truth (and chooses who she will fight for). Fanning is great at this because she still has a child’s charm about her; she can believably portray Aurora as the curious and giddy young woman who is learning about life’s harsh realities. In many ways, she is what motivates Maleficent’s redemption.

“You stole what was left of my heart.”

One thing in the film which is quite off-putting are the three pixies which raise Aurora. They are meant to be comic relief, but that’s unnecessary given the fact that the crow, named Diaval, and Maleficent actually provide this more effectively. The pixies are more of a nuisance than anything, and the CGI work done on them in their smaller forms is detailed, but odd-looking. If their scenes had been cut down, then the pacing of the movie would have been much better.


Overall, “Maleficent” is a wonderful live-action fairytale retelling. The script is complex, and gives audiences a good recipe of humour and action to break up the otherwise dark tone. People who’ve grown up with the animated “Sleeping Beauty” will especially get a lot out of this since it improves on the story. With top-notch acting, and stunning visuals, this film is a must-see.

My Rating: 8/10


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About Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin is an avid watcher of movies and television shows so she decided to use her passion to write about them. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a Minor in Creative Writing.

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