Maleficent 2014 | Movie Review

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🎥 Cinematography by Dean Semler

👗 Costumes by Anna B. Sheppard

🎬 Directed by Robert Stromberg

🎞 Edited by Chris Lebenzon & Richard Pearson

🎼 Music by James Newton Howard

📋 Produced by Joe Roth

📝 Screenplay by Linda Woolverton

🌟 S T A R R I N G

✨ Angelina Jolie as Maleficent | Ella Purnell as Teen Maleficent | Isobelle Molloy as Young Maleficent

🤴🏻 Brenton Thwaites as Prince Phillip

👩🏼 Elle Fanning as Aurora | Eleanor Worthington Cox as 8-Year-Old Aurora | Vivienne Jolie-Pitt as 5-Year-Old Aurora

👸🏼 Hannah New as Princess Leila

🧚🏻 Imelda Staunton as Knotgrass

🗣 Janet McTeer as The Narrator

🧚🏼 Juno Temple as Thistlewit

👑 Kenneth Cranham as King Henry

🧚🏻‍♀️ Lesley Manville as Flittle

🐦 Sam Riley as Diaval

🧔🏻 Sharlto Copley as Stefan | Jackson Bews as Teen Stefan | Michael Higgins as Young Stefan

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The next Disney remake I’m reviewing is Maleficent from 2014. This was my 2nd viewing:

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Themed Castle Intro Alert! The opening castle is King Stefan’s castle. After the fireworks go off, it transitions into the opening scene of the movie.

I need to address the elephant in the room: This is a live action remake of Sleeping Beauty, but it focuses on the villain Maleficent & her origin story. However, Aurora is a main character, & the story is true enough to the original that I can still compare the two. I believe this is the creative direction Cruella is taking, telling a villain origin tale alongside the original story. Interesting! I wonder if Disney will approach any other remakes like this . . .

In this version, Maleficent is a fairy who’s grown up in the Moors, & Stefan is an orphan from the human world. They meet as children, become best friends, & fall in love despite past prejudice between their races. When she tells him iron burns fairies, he immediately throws away his iron ring so it can’t hurt her, an incredibly sweet gesture. Of course we all know a happy ending isn’t their destiny. Stefan’s rough childhood made him eager to climb the ladder & hold a better position in life. To win the favor of King Henry & a marriage to his daughter Princess Leila, he sets out to kill the fairy he’s loved since childhood. He drugs her but cannot go through with the assassination. Instead he commits the ultimate betrayal: he uses her race against her by severing her wings with iron. The cry Maleficent releases upon waking is haunting. Top marks for Angelina Jolie’s acting! When she finds out why she was betrayed, a villain is born. The Protector of the Moors now walks with a staff, darkness blanketing her once enchanting home. She gives a raven named Diaval a human form, & he becomes her sidekick with the ability to fly & bring back news from the humans.

When news of the newborn princess reaches her, Maleficent goes to the christening uninvited, & her iconic black outfit is revealed. With her magic, which is now a sinister green color, she curses Princess Aurora to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel & fall into a permanent sleep before the sun sets on her 16th birthday. In the original movie, the blue fairy Merryweather creates the true love’s kiss antidote. In this version, Maleficent listens to King Stefan’s pleas & adds the antidote herself. It’s a hint that perhaps she hasn’t completely transformed into a villain. Interesting . . .

Speaking of Merryweather, the three fairies we know & love are present & accounted for with new names. Fauna, the green fairy, is now Thistlewit; Flora, the red fairy, is Knotgrass; & Merryweather, the blue fairy, is Flittle. They are quirky & sweet & care for Princess Aurora in a cottage just like their animated counterparts did. The casting of Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, & Lesley Manville is spot-on. 

Maleficent initially watches over the pixies’ cottage to keep an eye on Aurora as she grows up & gets closer to fulfilling the curse. She nicknames her “Beastie” & tries her best to scare the child, but she’s always met with a smile & sweetness that could melt ice. She starts to intervene in the child’s upbringing because the pixies are unfit parents despite their good intentions. In one scene, Diaval flies in to give the crying baby her bottle & rock her cradle. In another scene, Aurora wanders away from the pixies who’ve been distracted by a magical prank courtesy of Maleficent. The child falls off a cliff, but Maleficent catches her using tree roots. *GASP* Does Maleficent care for the little princess??

• Fun Fact: Five-year-old Aurora is played by Angelina Jolie’s daughter Vivienne Jolie-Pitt. What a fun childhood memory to have!

When teenage Aurora comes face to face with Maleficent for the first time, she incorrectly identifies her as her fairy godmother. The mistake alarms Maleficent, & she immediately puts Aurora to sleep & takes her back to the cottage. But, it doesn’t take long for her to start spending quality time with Aurora in the Moors which are looking colorful & cheerful once again. They grow so close that the princess announces her wish to live with Maleficent. This is a good time to mention how perfect Elle Fanning is as Aurora with her radiant smile & ability to portray innocence & sweetness.

Stefan’s kingdom is in disarray because he’s furiously trying to destroy all spinning wheels. He also attempts to burn the Moors to the ground, but they’re surrounded by impenetrable thorns, a nod to the original movie. Driven mad by fear of what the curse will do to his daughter, Stefan does not even say goodbye to his wife on her deathbed. This is a sad detail because it means Aurora will never know her mother Queen Leila. Maleficent filled the role of motherly figure to watch over Aurora leading up to her 16th birthday, but now the princess is truly motherless.

Maleficent eventually regrets her curse & tries to reverse it. Alas it cannot be done, & Aurora is doomed to prick her finger & fall asleep, awaiting true love’s kiss. This is a great lesson about acting out of anger; some decisions cannot be undone, & consequences are inevitable. Perhaps this is the point when some viewers question if Maleficent was charmed out of villainy too fast. Remember all the bread crumbs I left for you? Maleficent’s hostility is aimed at one specific person: King Stefan. The only other people who truly feel her wrath are the armies who try to destroy the Moors, her home. Aurora doesn’t melt her icy heart with a few smiles; she charms her with kindness & love as well as a lack of the selfish ambition that destroyed her father Stefan. Also, Maleficent knew Aurora when she was a baby, toddler, preteen, & teenager. Their relationship in the movie spans sixteen years, & it took her all that time to decide she wanted to reverse the curse. By the time the closing credits roll, I consider her more of an antihero than a villain.

• Aurora’s three pixie guardians make her a messy but thoughtful birthday cake for her Sweet Sixteen. It isn’t an exact replica but is definitely inspired by the animated movie’s topsy turvy white cake with blue icing & pink candles.

I miss the “make it pink, make it blue” scene. The three pixies do get into humorous scrapes arising from fairykind trying to raise a human child, but the classic fight between Flora & Merryweather was left out. It wouldn’t fit into this version for more than one reason so I understand the omission. Just wanted to mention that it’s not there. I don’t consider that a strike against the 2014 movie because the original movie is always there for my viewing pleasure. This is a different tale with its own funny moments. Not only do we get some levity from the three fairies but also from Diaval & his banter with Maleficent.

The pixies reveal the truth about the curse to Aurora after she announces she’s moving to the Moors to live with Maleficent. She confronts the fairy she thought was her godmother, & then makes the journey home. Despite his apparent concern for her, King Stefan is cold & distant when she arrives, proof that his motives are selfish & more about defeating Maleficent than protecting his daughter.

Backing up her earlier remorse, Maleficent tries her best to reach Aurora before the curse is fulfilled, but dark magic prevails. The princess pricks her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel & falls into a deep sleep, exactly what was foretold. The three pixies try to reassure King Stefan that his daughter is only asleep & can be awoken by true love’s kiss. He replies that “true love doesn’t exist” & hits Flittle before storming out.

Aurora met Prince Phillip in the forest once, just like her animated counterpart. When Maleficent rushes to the castle, she takes the prince with her believing he could break the curse. He’s enchanted by the young princess from their previous meeting, but his kiss doesn’t work. I like this change because how could Phillip possibly be Aurora’s true love after one single interaction. Maleficent laments her failure & grieves her “goddaughter.” After she bends down to give her one last kiss on the cheek, Aurora’s blue eyes slowly open & she says “Hello godmother.” She responds with “Hello Beastie,” a moment that definitely puts a tear or two in my eyes. Her kiss was the key because she has a relationship with the princess & truly loves her. This adaptation explores a remorseful villain so it makes sense that she’s the one to break her own curse. Maleficent is my favorite Disney villain so I initially didn’t know how I felt about the remake being so different. But as I said before, this doesn’t erase the original movie. Now I have two different versions of one fairytale to choose from. Twice the fun, twice the Disney magic!

Obviously Maleficent & Phillip do not face off in a fight as dragon versus prince. Instead Maleficent turns Diaval into a dragon to help her escape an iron net trap set up by King Stefan & his soldiers. In this new scene, Maleficent wears a black catsuit, & I don’t know how I feel about it. I know it’s supposed to make her look super cool while she’s fighting, but all I think of is Catwoman which makes no sense inside my head while watching a Disney adaptation of a fairytale. It doesn’t look horrible; I just can’t disassociate it from DC’s famous feline.

You know what shot is absolutely glorious? When Maleficent’s wings reattach themselves to her back, & she flies for the first time in over a decade, bursting out of a grand palace window. It takes me back to the awesomeness of Maleficent kicking butt to protect the Moors earlier in the movie. Perfection!

There’s one defining moment that truly flips the narrative. Maleficent has the opportunity to kill King Stefan but chooses to declare their fight over & walk away. Stefan can’t let his anger go & attacks her from behind, falling to his death during the scuffle. Selfish ambition consumed him, keeping him from the life he could’ve had. He was the true villain all along.

By the end of the movie Aurora is an orphan, having lost her mother Leila to an unknown illness & her father Stefan to madness. She gets her wish to live with Maleficent, her beloved fairy godmother & the only mom she’s ever known (including the pixies who she considers her aunts). Maleficent continues her position as protector, & Aurora is crowned the first human queen of the Moors. Prince Phillip is present at her coronation, hinting that they’re a couple now & building a relationship. No instalove here!

Throughout the movie we hear a female narrator, Janet McTeer, who eventually reveals herself to be “the one they call Sleeping Beauty.” Narration is a nice nod to classic Disney movies as well as the reading of fairytales. I also love the idea of adult Aurora telling her own story but remaining anonymous until the very end.

As the closing credits roll, a haunting version of Once Upon a Dream is sung by Lana Del Rey. It has a darker sound which matches a version of Sleeping Beauty that focuses on a fairy turned villain turned antihero.


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🍅 Rotten Tomatoes: 54% Critics | 70% Audience

🏆 Major Awards: Best Costume Design Oscar nomination (Anna B. Sheppard)

❓ Original or Remake: Even though Sleeping Beauty isn’t my favorite Disney movie, this is a tough decision because I love elements from both films. Also, this is not a straight remake because it takes Maleficent’s story in a different direction. I’ve decided to consult my Animation vs Remake rankings to make the decision for me. The winner by three rankings spot is . . . Original!

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Alice in Wonderland 2010 | Movie Review

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🎥 Stay tuned for another movie review tomorrow! 🍿 

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