Visual effects maestro and first time director Robert Stromberg has taken charge of Disney’s latest big budget flick, Maleficent, a live-action re-imagining of the classic 1959 animation, Sleeping Beauty. Starring Angelina Jolie as the evil, horn-headed fairy, Maleficent, the story of the sleeping princess is this time told from her perspective – the original villain of the piece – in a film that delivers big on the visuals, but lacks the boldness of a truly epic Disney blockbuster.
Hell has no fury like a fairy scorned. Love is still at the centre of this legendary tale, but in Stromberg’s re-telling, not as we once knew it. Maleficent was not born evil – nor is she truly at heart – but her change of character into the scary looking fairy we all grew up knowing developed out of heartbreak. The curse put upon Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) is out of revenge – not in spite, nor pure hatred – but because she was betrayed by the ambitious, unruly King, Stefan (Sharlto Copley). True loves kiss is what is needed to save the princess from her ever-lasting sleep, but it might not be the dashing prince-type who comes to save the day this time around…
Maleficent, despite all its exterior beauty, lacks an edge to proceedings. It is great to look at – the special effects are beautifully crafted and certainly not overdone like others of its kind – whilst the story is sweet, charming and with an undercurrent of effective dark humour lurking in the background. However, by the end of its 97 minute running time it is hard to not feel it was all a bit of an anti-climax. Jolie is excellent as the leading fairy, delivering the original sinisterness of the character but still managing to make it her own by making Maleficent strangely lovable. Fanning smiles and giggles her way through as Aurora in an innocent, yet unspectacular fashion, whilst the darkness of Copley’s King Stefan is never fulled developed. Despite being a visually pleasing affair, as to be expected by someone like Stromberg, the film peters out far too quickly. The few action sequences are as unspectacular as the films ending, whilst Jolie’s evilness – when she was undoubtedly at her best – deserved more screen time than it received.
It is a film that will be remembered with indifference; it starts so well, but trails off far too quickly, with boredom guaranteed to set in towards the end. Jolie is the star of the show who shines brightly in an edgy, but somewhat undercooked piece of cinema.