Disney as a whole has already had quite a year of film in 2014. A blockbuster Marvel film and the critically acclaimed true story of kids from India turned baseball players; determined not to let this momentum subside the studio’s latest offering is Maleficent. The film is directed by Robert Stromberg, who is better known for his visual effects artistry on Pirates of the Caribbean. In the title role is Angelina Jolie. Maleficent is one of Disney’s most interesting and risky concepts in a very long time. There’s much to enjoy about the film, with only a few tonal inconsistencies that may hinder your enjoyment.
The tale of Sleeping Beauty and it’s moral are turned upside down as we’re not intended to fear Maleficent but understand how misunderstood she’s been. Disney’s animated classic serves as the jumping-off point for the film and in many ways the message of Maleficent is better suited for a modern audience than Snow White. Stromberg’s vision feels experimental from the Disney norm. At times it works beautifully and strikes a deep emotional level. There are a few times where visually and tonally the film feels like it doesn’t keep up with Jolie’s magnificent Maleficent performance.
Her supporting cast is solid but it suffers from similar problems of not always keeping pace with Jolie. Elle Fanning plays Princess Aurora and looks like a living model of the animated princess. The other noteworthy supporting performance is Sam Riley as Maleficent’s minion Diaval. The sum of these parts don’t always make the whole stronger, but they help shift the logic of the film where it could have gone totally awry.
Maleficent was an idea by Disney to deconstruct the idea of villainy and look at some of its classic stories through a new lens. Which in a way is a proper evolution for audiences today that gravitate towards anti-heroes. Even though there were some stumbles along the way of this film, it’s a notion Disney shouldn’t give up on.
Ultimately, Maleficent is a film that rest on the captivating and theatrical performance of Angelina Jolie. The only problem is that the world she inhabits slips at times leaving the audience watching a movie of two different tones. Its final lesson finds a way to give a modern spin on the moral of the story.