We all know the story of Sleeping Beauty, and most of us have seen the animated Disney Classic version. This story, however, is nothing like those. Yes, the characters have the same names, and yes, the Princess is cursed to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a death-like sleep. But seriously, that’s where the similarities end.
Let’s start at the beginning; first off, you get a really nice way in. You know how Disney changed their theme song and logo to 8-bit format for Wreck-It Ralph? Well, in this film, they changed the entire castle to the one that will feature in the film.
Anyway, the story begins with Maleficent as a young fairy meeting Stefan, a human boy who has stolen something from the Moors. It kind of foreshadows what’s to come, after all, a leopard can’t change their spots, right? Anyway, this part, where the girl is flying around and greeting people, and sorting out issues, feels really off. There’s something quite contrived about the whole thing and honestly, all those niceties weren’t entirely needed. However, once you get away from the childhood meeting and move on to Maleficent growing up, the film really begins. OK, you do need the back-story, but it could have been done better.
Let me reiterate; this film is nothing like the Sleeping Beauty you knew. It is darker, it is more emotional, it is (dare I say it?) more grown-up. It takes the evil character from the story and twists her into something much more human, a creature that. although powerful, can make mistakes just like the rest of us. The film totally blurs the lines between what we believe to be good and evil, and gives us the reason that everyone has the potential for both. This time around, King Stefan has wronged her, and Maleficent is so consumed by revenge that she curses his child. The child is whisked away by three fairies, just like in the original story, but this time Maleficent finds her easily, and watches over her so that her curse can be fulfilled. Well, at first she does, anyway.
Maleficent was by far the most interesting character in the whole film, with her complex emotions and her personal growth acted wonderfully by Angelina Jolie, but there was one other stand-out character for me. Remember the crow that Maleficent keeps on her should, the one that eventually finds Aurora? Well, his name is Diaval, and he is indeed a crow, but by Maleficents magic he is also a human, and a good many other things as well, each as awesome-looking as the next. He serves as a conscience and a companion for our anti-heroine. Another stand-out was Sharlto Copley (King Stefan) who played his difficult character exceedingly well. The change in this particular character was astounding, and I loved to see the original tale turned on its head in this way.
This movie is beautiful; the scenery is stunning, the outfits are incredible and the magic is natural-looking (strange word to use, but it kind of fits). Nothing is over-done or completely silly (OK, the three fairies that took Aurora in were getting to the silly point, but that’s the only thing I can think of). The focus is not on romance, but more on about true love is really about. It echoes the way that Frozen handled love, with familial love taking the place of romance, and really, it’s one great message for kids.
This film must be watched once, for curiosity’s sake, and then at least once more, to see the subtle lessons we can learn from it, to bask in the stunning design and to relive the emotion. Great film, it’s just a shame about the first part.