Jolie is Scary Good in Maleficent
- Thursday, May 29, 2014
Release Date: May 30, 2014
Rating: PG (for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images)
Run Time: 97 min.
Director: Robert Stromberg
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Sam Riley, Michael Higgins
After playing a spy in the ho-hum Salt and having next to no chemistry with Johnny Depp in The Tourist back in 2010, Angelina Jolie hasn't starred in anything that wasn't animated for four years now. But with Disney's Maleficent, a live-action fantasy that flips the script on the original Sleeping Beauty, Jolie has finally found her perfect role as a vengeful fairy-queen determined to teach power-hungry humans a lesson.
Before Maleficent opts for the dark side, however, she's a kind-hearted protector of a strange, fantastical kingdom. Kind to every sprite, tree-person and troll who inhabits her peaceful world, Maleficent's fairy existence, despite having lost both of her parents at a young age, is full of harmony and wonder. Until she meets Stefan, that is.
At first blush, young Stefan is the kindred spirit for whom Maleficent has always hoped. Although they're quite literally from different worlds, they have shared experiences (he, too, is an orphan) and love spending time together. Further confirming her affection, Maleficent is moved by Stefan's seemingly sacrificial nature. After discovering the metal of his ring burns Maleficent's skin if they touch, Stefan, who doesn't have much in the way of worldly wealth, takes it off and tosses it into the wind. To her, that's a sign he'll never hurt her.
Not surprisingly, a relationship between fairy and human will have challenges in the long run, and as Stefan gets older, his priorities change. As a war rages on in his world, Stefan is tempted by an offer he simply can't refuse: whoever is crafty and strong enough to kill Maleficent - now perceived as his world's greatest threat - will assume the throne. And since Stefan already has a connection with Maleficent, he believes he's just the guy to complete the challenge.
Picking right up where they left off, or so she thinks, Maleficent trusts Stefan enough to accept the drink he's offering. As she dozes off to sleep, however, Stefan finds it difficult to actually go through with ending her life, so he does the next best thing. Like Delilah did so callously to Samson in the Book of Judges, Stefan cuts off the source of Maleficent's strength, her wings.
When Maleficent wakes up in extreme pain and discovers exactly what Stefan did, her squeal of anguish is downright terrifying. It's then when her sweet spirit and purity of heart basically turn to stone. Bent on retaliation, she recruits Diaval (Brit actor Sam Riley) to be her "wings" and sets out to ruin Stefan's life.
It's here where Maleficent, thanks to Jolie's commanding performance, finds its footing. Being bad clearly agrees with Jolie, who as Maleficent is armed with fierce cheekbones, leathery horns and a whipsmart demeanor to match. In a scene with Jolie's real-life daughter Vivienne Jolie-Pitt as the young Aurora (more on Aurora in a minute), Maleficent's declaration of how much she hates children is especially entertaining. The only flaw revealed by a scene like this is realizing the script could've benefitted from a little more dry humor to balance the oh-so-serious proceedings.
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