Disney struck box office magic again this weekend as Maleficent knocked off X-Men: Days of Future Past from the top spot, taking in over $70 million!
Maleficent is the “untold story” of how the iconic villain from the classic animated film, Sleeping Beauty, turned to evil. It stars Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, Sharlto Copley as the King Stefan, Elle Fanning as Aurora and Sam Riley as Diaval the part time crow, part time human.
The film takes place in a land that contains a magical Forest Kingdom and a Human Kingdom. The Human Kingdom is as you would imagine and resembles your typical “Disney Kingdom” but the real amazement is the Forest Kingdom. We are treated to a magical land with beautiful ponds, forest, and exotic creatures. It reminded me of Pandora from James Cameron’s Avatar, but with a more familiar “non-glowing” forest feel. In this Forest Kingdom lives the young, Maleficent, who is revealed as a winged fairy and guardian of her land. This part of the film was warm and inviting and I wondered how they were going to transition this character into the evil witch we knew from the original Disney classic.
The film showcased amazing CGI special effects! This was especially true with the many creatures including the giant tree warriors, Aurora’s Pixie guardians, and the magical effects of Maleficent. This was further shown in the animation of Maleficent’s wings!
Angelina Jolie who was also a Producer, was brilliant as Maleficent. For me, this was my favorite performance from Jolie. I felt that, even though she was a Disney character, her acting was very natural. I imagined her real personality coming through during the light hearted scenes. Her make up and eyes in the film were exotic and sometimes frightening! The film captured the live action feel of the 50 year old animated film. There is no-one else that could have played this role better!
Sharlto Copley played Maleficent’s Human childhood friend who would later become King through dubious and less than honest means. There has been criticism that the casting of Copley may have been a poor choice, but I felt that his style of acting and the progression he undertook from King to madness was his forte. You can see this talent in such previous films as The A-Team, and District 9.
I would argue that the real focus on the film was between King Stefan and Maleficent which originates from their past relationship and tragic betrayal, and it is Aurora that is used to fuel their hatred for one another. This eventually turns to a loving relationship between Aurora and Maleficent. The film then takes a strong shift to reveal the true and original nature of Maleficent.
What I love about this film was the “female hero focus” of the film. Having two daughters, this is important to me. I want them to grow up learning and knowing that they are ever as equal to boys. This includes the importance of seeing strong female characters in media. Further to this was the very minor appearance of “the Prince”. This strong female lead is along the same lines as Disney’s epic animation blockbuster, Frozen.
I prefer this story over the original story of Sleeping Beauty. This story gives us more than a “black and white” reason to Maleficent’s fall to evil (the evil is more of a scorned anger) as the animated film portrayed, but gives us a deeper look and even has you empathizing. It will be interesting to see how Disney now portrays Maleficent, especially at its resorts. If they move to promote the softer version as portrayed in this film, what will become of their “Fantasmic” show at the Hollywood Studios park? I would love to see her part removed. As well, would she be among the actors in the park that would join the Princesses (I know she isn’t a Princess, but…) that children meet for autographs? Time and box office money will tell.
When Disney’s Frozen came out my daughters were obsessed, and still are! My home is covered in merchandise, dolls, pics, posters and more. When Maleficent ended and the lights came on, my oldest daughter turned to me wide eyed and still reflecting on the film she witnessed and said, “I love Frozen so much, but Maleficent…I…I just LOVE IT!”
If you want to see a film with a strong cast, amazing characters and worlds and to see a story of betrayal, hatred, and love – THIS is the film for your family or with friends. Disney is on a roll with another future classic!
Final Rating: 4/4 – Go see this movie!
Steve “Rifflo” Fitch – News Director
Steve, also known as “Rifflo”, is a University MBA Administrator in Ontario Canada where he lives with his wife, Lisa and two young daughters, Alexa and Ava. Steve has an extensive background in corporate sales. Steve also worked for ISAF: International Security Assistance Force and the Canadian Military as a recruiter in Human Resources for the operations in Bosnia and Afghanistan. When not immersed in Tolkien works,sci-fi, and film, you can find him training in Muay Thai, Italian rapier, German longsword, and Mixed Martial Arts. Follow Steve on Twitter @HobbitSteve