Disney have a long history of terrorising kids, despite the mouse house’s magic veneer. From the jealous queen in Snow White, to the trippy scenes in Dumbo, or the beast fighting off the villagers in Beauty and the Beast, and the deaths of characters of like Bambi’s mom and Mufasa (still not over that one Walt), Disney movies are littered with examples of great villains or great villainy.
It came as no surprise then to learn a more grown up version of the Snow White story could become a success and pave the way for other fairy tales to take on a darker tone and revitalise some of the fables that most of us are fond of from years gone by. The latest effort, Maleficent, focuses on the fairy who enchanted a spinning wheel in the Sleeping Beauty story, and aside from being visually one of the most creative movies this year, also gives us Angelina Jolie’s best performance in years.
Maleficent doesn’t start life as the villain we see her become; it takes a cruel act of betrayal to turn her pure heart to stone. The land we’re introduced to is divided in two, one part belonging to the world of men and one part belonging to fantastic magical creatures. Driven by a fierce desire to protect the forest over which she presides, Maleficent places a hex upon the human king’s newborn infant Aurora, after she is deceived by someone close to her from the world of man.
In many ways Maleficent draws parallels with Disney’s last and most successful release, Frozen. Both are about women with extraordinary power that feel a sense of betrayal, and both are about learning to accept yourself for who you really are. It’s refreshing to see movies that appeal to a wide demographic but that focus on strong female characters, whatever their motivations. Seeing as it’s Disney, you can rest assured there are some thinly veiled life lessons along the journey the characters take.
Maleficent makes full use of the medium of 3D and the visuals are spectacular by any standard. Gorgeously rendered creatures from the forest and epic, sweeping action from the battle scenes, this movie has a little bit of something for everyone. There’s even some great comic relief in the form of some scatter-brained fairies to offset the darker tone of the film and it looks like everyone involved is having a blast; something that radiates from the screen and will invariably infect the audience.
Maleficent is an honest-to-goodness thrilling adventure, with a star at the peak of her powers. Jolie is magnificent; stunningly beautiful, deliciously and gleefully evil, yet with a capacity for kindness that belies the dark exterior her character portrays. See it on the big screen – it’s sinfully good fun.
(Images courtesy Disney, Collider, IMDb)