Ever since Wicked, retelling The Wizard of Oz from the Wicked Witch’s point of view, became a hit on Broadway, the concept of flipping the script rippled through other famous fables. Maleficent was one of the first, having Angelina Jolie attached early on to the project. After a long gestation the movie finally released, but was it worth the wait? This is simply a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, but from antagonist turned misunderstood protagonists Maleficent’s perspective. The result is an abbreviated version of Sleeping Beauty, sans singing, and the biggest reliance on computer effects I have ever seen. Fear not, not a practical effect is to be had aside from makeup and prosthetics. Does that make the final product poor? No, but it is certainly lacking. Stripping away the singing, Sleeping Beauty is only about 45 minutes long, give or take. The first act, leading up to Aurora’s birth runs around 15 – 20 minutes. That leaves room for a bit of the needless padding adding up to the near 100 minute run time. What comprises the padding you ask? Insane grandstanding, pointless sub-arcs, and sub-par spectacles. Again, does that make it bad? No.
The performances were great. Jolie’s physic and look made her perfect for the fallen fairy. It was easy to see how much she relished playing her part. Opposite her was Sharlto Copley was great as the mad king. Copley’s a fantastic actor, and I’d love to play someone not crazed for once. At least he does crazed well. Elle Fanning (sibling of Dakota), was fine as Aurora. Her strongest quality was how she didn’t bungle her role, something easily done (I’m looking at you Mia Wasikowska). The fairy sisters though (Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville), were incredibly annoying. Mixing in there horribly done fairy appearances, I cringed every time they took the screen.
As for the effects, they were completely over done. Often times humans were swapped out for CG models, much like in Oz the Great and Powerful, or the 100 Agent Smith fight in Matrix Reloaded. The effects worked when showing other worldly things, like the tree creatures, which looked fantastic. It was the items or creatures with real life analogues that suffered. Jolie looked good flying, with her robes hiding the often awkward leg positioning of actors on highwires. At least, when it was her. While some of the design looked inspired, like Maleficent’s home, most of the inhabitants were lacking, like the weird things that threw mud. I think there was only four variations of creatures.
If you really enjoyed Sleeping Beauty, have a affinity for Disney movies, or are looking for something fun and different to watch with children, this is solid choice. If you were looking something more, or a different take, what’s added is good, but sparingly so. Is this 20 minutes of new material worth the price of admission. After some soul searching, only you can answer that. For me, I didn’t regret my time, but certainly won’t spend it again. Did the CG effects bother you? Think there was too much padding? Comment below! Was the prince Jonathan Taylor Thomas?