David and I watched Maleficent today and partly because I am drawing a blank on what to write and partly because I am a fan of the character Maleficent, I thought it would be fun to do a reaction post. Now I admit I am probably slightly tainted because I grew up watching Sleeping Beauty and have been curious how this movie would turn out. Personally this movie did not disappoint, I was not sure what direction they were going to take the story, but was pleasantly surprised with the changes they decided to include. Now I will say there are certain parts of the story that become pretty obvious, but it was still a fun ride. If nothing else Angelina Jolie as Maleficent is absolutely fantastic. She gets the look, the mannerisms, the voice, and the general presence of the character down flat.
The thing I liked about the story the most is that it still works in the context of what we know about Sleeping Beauty. Some stories try and change the characters and situations so much that it can become almost unrecognizable. With the story in Maleficent I can understand how the legend would persist in the story that we know today instead of the original tale. I enjoyed watching this movie, I do not know if it had to be in theaters, but I think it is definitely worth watching at some point. (Spoilers for Maleficent after the break.)
I like the idea that Maleficent is a powerful fairy that is full of joy and wonder. For some reason that is never really explained she is the protector of the land where the mythical creatures live. First we see her as a young girl, but the joy that she displays as she flies through the land and greets all the inhabitants just brings a smile to your face. In some ways this is probably the weakest part of the movie, but I think they do a decent job of showing us who Maleficent is. I do not need to understand why she is alone, but I do need to understand her character. In the beginning she is full of joy and wonder, then she is betrayed in the most egregious way. I could not even imagine living a life where you fly and soar above the clouds. Your wings would define who you are, and to have a person you trust steal them from you for their own greed would be heartbreaking. I can understand how it would break your spirit and make you do some things against your character.
Now in the story the idea is that there are the mythical lands and the humans land. The humans are ruled by a vain and greedy King who promotes expanding the wealth of the kingdom. Part of what he wants is to get in to the mythical land because he believes that there is a wealth there for him to control. Maleficent is the one who protects the mythical lands and we see that she has to keep the King’s army from causing a full out assault. This coupled with her being betrayed by a human she thought she could trust explains why she would curse a child. She believes that all people are part of the attack on her land and most likely believes that Aurora will grow up to be the same. The betrayal makes her lose her sense of joy and wonder in the world. I felt like I can completely understand how she becomes so much of a cynic and seems so cold.
The Overarching Story
Going in to Maleficent I was not positive where they would take the story. In some ways the story has been told kind of recently. A person who is different and unique, full of love and joy gets betrayed by someone they trust, which makes them turn a corner. This is the same story that we hear over and over again. The part that I loved about this movie was seeing the fall, but then seeing the slow return of that joy. I find it doubly great because she finds that joy in the innocence of a child. A child who does not understand greed or vanity, but looks at the world with wonder and joy. There are probably problems with the story, but personally I had a great time and felt an emotional connection to the journey that Maleficent goes on.