On Sunday I was lucky enough to attend a private family and friends screening of Maleficent for Disney employees. The screening was preceeded by a short presentation from none other than the films’ director Robert Stromberg! We were all really surprised and it was certainly a lovely touch from the Disney company. So anyway, on to the film. Ever since the first sneak peak shots of Angelina adorning those trademark horns the fangirl in me was screaming with joy. I have never been a massive fan of Sleeping Beauty itself, but I freaking LOVE Maleficent. She’s awesome; the “Mistress of all Evil: with good cause, from her epic dragon transformation to her wicked character design, I don’t think Disney animation have ever managed to recreate a character that just oozes villainous quite the way she does. And finally, here was a film, focusing on her, with hopefully some interesting back story to help expand upon this incredible character.

As the film’s release date drew closer, more elaborate and revealing trailers emerged. And I was worried. The landscaping and secondary character design was far too reminiscent of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, which fell foul of the modern fantasy epic faux pas of relying on CGI to create the fantastical world of Wonderland which left me with a bad taste in my mouth. And it looked very much like Maleficent would follow suit. I sat in my cinema seat with baited breath.

So, good things first. Maleficent herself is AMAZING. Better than expected. Angelina Jolie is an absolute goddess and plays the nefarious anti-hero with a sinister glee that is delightfully wicked to watch. Watching her lips crackle into the trademark sinister smile in the infamous Christening scene was to die for and I fell in love instantly. Her costume design is flawless villain vogue and it is breathtaking to see the transition of the ensemble from animation to live action. Maleficent’s backstory is similarly enjoyable, although I had hoped the film played out more in this portion of the movie rather than fade into what was essentially an elaborate retelling of the classic fairytale. 

And the rest. Oh, the rest. I just wish as much effort and specificity had been put into developing the other characters in Maleficent. Aurora (Elle Fanning) is a bore and almost cringe-worthy to watch sometimes and the three good fairies (Leslie Manville, Imelda Staunton and Juno Temple) were extremely irritating, especially when shrunken down to fairy size (which apparently means your face also becomes grotesque and warped) and their character design came across as extremely basic when held up against the grandure of Maleficent. It is such a shame that these beloved and heroic side characters were reduced to snivelling idiots in this film.

Another dramatic difference between Maleficent and its animated inspiration is in the portrayal of King Stephen (Sharlto Copley) as in this version he actually has some personality. I adored the way the character remained cowardly even when he becomes king. Copley’s representation of the craven king is reminiscent of Grima Wormtongue in the Lord of the Rings trilogy with his greasy demeanour and unlikability and felt a suitable nemesis for the devillish yet mysteriously likeable Maleficent. The development of any other male character in this film basically goes out of the window after Stephen, as Prince Phillip (Brenton Thwaites) is a monotonously handsome drip with the personality and enthusiasm of a sponge. Yes, the wicked wit of Maleficent had provided some laughs but this representation of Prince Phillip, whether intentional or not, reminded me of the imbecile prince from Enchanted and as such was just a silly character in what I had thus far been lead to believe was a noble portrayal of the Sleeping Beauty story. 

Which leads on to the “surprise twist” ending, where true loves kiss comes from somewhere unexpected. I put that in inverted commas because, Disney, to be unexpected we have to have not seen this before. You know, like we did just a few months ago in Frozen. Yeah. I found it downright weird that Disney chose to do this, especially as it is such a dramatic “fuck you” to the traditional fairytale endings that Disney has become synonymous with. In Frozen it was groundbreaking and caught me by surprise, a real step away from the Disney we thought we knew, yet in Maleficent it was just…meh.  

Unfortunately an epic Disney villain oozing with potential was let down by downright tedious supporting characters, a twist ending that had been done before and some terribly cheap looking CGI. However, Jolie really did Maleficent justice and I would go as far as to say that the film is worth watching solely for her performance.


  1. You can only do so much with your film when all it does is rely on beautiful visuals, and doesn't have much else to show for them. Good review.