Being the huge Disney fanatic that I am, I made it a point to see Maleficent in theaters this weekend the day after it opened. While the movie wasn’t quite what I was expecting, Disney made a really interesting interpretation of their animated film released almost sixty years ago. Maleficent remains the most glamorous member in the Disney villain arsenal.
The Film: (DISCLAIMER: I’m attempting to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but if you don’t want any overarching plot points ruined, skip this section) The film was a really interesting interpretation of Disney’s 1959 film Sleeping Beauty, and fleshed out a lot of back story of the adult characters, focusing predominantly on events prior to Aurora’s life in order to establish the plot. Being a huge fantasy lover, I enjoyed learning about Maleficent’s heritage as a fairy and the other magical elements, such as her wings and her use of an animal familiar. While the cause of Maleficent’s transition to dabbling in darkness wasn’t my favorite (I wished it hadn’t been due to a romantic entanglement to avoid the whole woman-scorned stereotype, but she’s still an awesome, powerful female figure) it was fascinating to see her truly as a warrior. Angelina Jolie is fascinating in the role, and she encapsulates a very dark humor that becomes identifiable with her character throughout the film- not to mention her cheekbones are insane. She really looks like how I always pictured Maleficent- glamorous, dangerous, and with a smile more terrible than the worst scowl.
The film did take a big deviation from the original Sleeping Beauty plot, making Maleficent’s story one of circumstance and redemption, but that was one of the best parts about the message of the movie- there’s rarely a purely good or purely evil person or character, and that the interplay of both sides inherent in humanity is what produces the most complex and sincerest feelings and intents.
Things I Liked:
- Costumes! Color played a subtle role in how character allegiances shifted and payed homage to the original Disney story roots (For example, Aurora is always seen in pale shades of either pink or blue)
- Maleficent’s animal familiar- It’s a Disney staple to give its villains animal henchmen, and it’s fun to see this relationship explored more in depth
- It’s dark– the not-so-great aspects of humans and the lengths they’ll go to gain power, and the madness they bring upon themselves from grief and paranoia is explored, and there’s not a cliché happily-ever-after for everyone
- The fact that Dolores Umbridge is the pink good fairy (traditionally named Flora) is fantastic
- Maleficent is a strong, intelligent, clever, warrior who has complex motives- yay!
- Love is not limited to the romantic, hetero-normative kind
Things that made me want to throw my popcorn at the screen:
- It seemed like some changes were made so unnecessarily (why did the good fairies names have to change?? Why didn’t Aurora have her alias of Briar Rose?)
- I wished there had been a bit more development of Aurora and Philip’s relationship, although this is Maleficent’s story- although Philip is a pretty big chump in the movie.
The Original Maleficent: Disney’s Sleeping Beauty (1959)
According to the Disney Wiki, Maleficent is one of the predominant Disney characters who is supposed to represent pure unrepentant evil in the same vain as Chernabog (that horrifying demon from Fantasia, remember him?) She is dehumanized through her ability to shape-shift into animals, and her death at the hands of Prince Philip (who was helped out by the good fairies big time) wasn’t even in her human form, which arguably lessens the impact of the fact that she is graphically murdered on-screen, because it was not in her human form. She is arguably the most powerful Disney villain, and her appearance can be seen as influencing later villains, particularly Jafar whom mirrors her in body type and the use of a magic staff. (Fun fact: the voice actress of Maleficent was also that of Lady Tremaine in Cinderella).
Maleficent in Modern Disney: OUAT and Disney Theme Parks
villains. OUAT particularly focuses on the Evil Queen from Snow White (Regina) as the big, bad antagonist and her pal Maleficent appears occasionally and she’s not very, well, impressive (she looks a little like a beauty queen gone to seed). The Evil Queen is definitely the big player in OUAT and overshadows Maleficent’s role in the Disney villain world.
Yet in the Disney parks, Maleficent is still the “leader” of the villains, and her rare appearances emphasize her importance. While the Evil Queen can be seen in the park almost daily (often near Snow White’s Wishing Well in Disneyland as well as in the villain tent during Halloween Time at Disneyland), Maleficent’s appearances are reserved usually only for special events and occasions, such as Mickey’s Halloween Party or the Friday the 13th festivities. I personally don’t know anyone who’s ever been able to see her in person in one of the parks!
*Also, a personal aside: I am completely and totally in love with Lana Del Ray’s cover of “Once Upon a Dream” for this movie. Listen to the song here.
Overall, Maleficent was a really interesting interpretation of Disney’s original spin on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, and whether Maleficent is portrayed as hero or villain, she is an admirable warrior and not one anyone magical or mortal should cross. The movie is a definite must-see, as it’s the only Disney film that focuses specifically on a villain, and it’s refreshing to see Maleficent regain her importance and status as the most infamous and glamorous Disney villain.
What did you think of the movie? Was it too much of a deviation for you? Have you seen Maleficent in a Disney park? Is she your favorite Disney villain or do you prefer someone else? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!