- by Jeff Beck
Maleficent: A Fascinating Take on a Classic Villain (Blu-ray)
Most of us know the tale of “Sleeping Beauty” as told in Disney’s animated masterpiece, the one told mostly from the point of view of the good characters, but have you ever wondered how different the tale might be if told from the supposedly evil point of view? Robert Stromberg’s “Maleficent” takes this beloved tale and turns it on its head, delivering a side of the story that’s never been told before, beginning with the titular character as a young fairy in the enchanted land known as “The Moors.” When she was young, Maleficent would spend her days with the creatures of The Moors, wandering the lands and soaring through the skies with her large wings. One day, she meets a young boy, Stefan, who has crossed into their lands from the human kingdom next door, which begins a relationship that lasts for many years.
Sadly, he eventually succumbs to ambition, resulting in his betrayal of Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and him becoming king. In retaliation, when Stefan (Sharlto Copley) and his Queen have a daughter, she places a curse on her, declaring that the princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) will prick her finger on a spinning wheel just before her 16th birthday, putting her to sleep until awakened by true love’s kiss. Stefan orders all spinning wheels to be burned and for his daughter to be secretly hidden away until the day after her 16th birthday, but it doesn’t take long for Maleficent to find out where she is. However, when she begins to spend more and more time with Aurora, she realizes that she has feelings for her, eventually making her regret the wicked curse she put on the princess years earlier, but, as she made clear when she placed it, no power on Earth can remove it, and that includes her own.
“Maleficent” presents an intriguing twist on this old tale that provides a few changes in order to make it fresh for those who are familiar with the original version. Some of these are rather big departures from the animated version, but then again, when you’re trying to craft a story based on a villain who really isn’t in the tale that much, a few liberties with the story are to be expected. For instance, we learn that Maleficent wasn’t always so bitter and evil, revealing that she knew Stefan years before the part of the story that most know. It’s an interesting piece of the puzzle that shows exactly why she would want to curse an innocent infant, whereas before we only knew her as just an evil fairy. Further changes are made to the section where Aurora is taken away in secret until her 16th birthday. In the original film, Maleficent doesn’t see her again until she comes back to the castle, but here we see how she actually finds her rather quickly and gets to know her during their nightly get-togethers, adding a fascinating emotional layer to the tale.
Helping to anchor this fascinating take on the tale is Angelina Jolie’s grand performance as the misunderstood fairy. She rolls with the emotional changes quite well, turning what we’ve only known as a cruel character into one that we can sympathize with rather easily as the gaps in her storyline are filled in. Many people have always found Maleficent to be one of the most memorable villains in the Disney catalog thanks to her elegantly-frightening presence, but Jolie’s portrayal is most memorable for the completely opposite reason. Not that she doesn’t have the elegance and frightening nature when she needs to, but what most will remember here is the emotional complexity she brings to the character, showing that she is not quite the stone-hearted witch we’ve always taken her for.
Thanks to this gripping portrayal and the interesting spin on the material, “Maleficent” makes for a fun trip into the unknown, delving into a character that we knew so little about. It’s not without its flaws (it can’t escape the inevitable big, drawn-out action sequence at the end), but they don’t stand in the way of this being a well-executed idea that is sure to enchant fans of the original Disney masterpiece.
“Maleficent” arrives on Blu-ray in a beautiful 2.40: 1, 1080p High Definition transfer. The film’s gorgeous look shines through with a perfectly sharp picture throughout the presentation, ensuring that all the hard work that went into this magical world’s design is seen in every detail. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is also outstanding, giving you every sound in outstanding clarity and at great levels. Overall, the film has been given flawless treatment, providing an exceptional experience.
Aurora: Becoming a Beauty
From Fairy Tale to Feature Film
Building an Epic Battle
For the most part, these are featurettes that explore the behind the scenes making of the film. The first three are somewhat brief, but worth watching to see how the film came to life, whereas “Classic Couture” and “Maleficent Revealed” don’t have much of anything to offer. There are also a handful of deleted scenes, which are interesting to watch, but you can easily see why they could be removed. Overall, it’s not a bad batch of extras, but something a little more in depth, such as a director’s commentary, would have been most welcome.
“Maleficent” is a fascinating spin on an old tale that gives us the unique opportunity to explore the story from a different point of view. Boasting a wonderful performance from Angelina Jolie, beautiful production design, and a well-constructed screenplay by Linda Woolverton, this new take on “Sleeping Beauty” is sure to delight fans who have always wondered if there was more to the supposed villain than originally thought.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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