Movie Review: MALEFICENT


Every once in a while, a role comes along that’s so perfectly embodied by an actor that you can’t imagine anyone else playing that character. Such is the case with Angelina Jolie in the titular role of Disney’s Maleficent, which provides back story for the villainess from the animated classic Sleeping Beauty. The casting is a bit obvious because we know Jolie can play dark and edgy characters, but what’s surprising is that she’s also funny in this movie.

The retelling of the well-known fairy tale also contains a few other surprising updates (which I’ll be vague about to avoid spoiling). We start with Maleficent as a young fairy with big powerful wings who guards the moors, a place that’s home to all kinds of magical creatures. Her heart is bright and she falls in love with an orphan boy who declares someday he’ll live in the castle in the land adjacent to the moors.

Fast forward to Jolie as the adult Maleficent, who leads her people into battle against the king of the neighboring land who’s looking to expand his kingdom. The outcome of the battle leads to Maleficent being horribly betrayed by the boy she thought was her true love. Enter the angry, vengeful fairy.

The story then treads familiar territory with the cursing of the infant princess Aurora, who shall prick her finger on a spindle on her sixteenth birthday and fall into a death-like sleep and can only be awoken by true love’s kiss. Maleficent is being snarky there because she no longer believes true love exists.

But while the story still contains the classic elements—the fire-breathing dragon, a young prince, the three pixies who raise Aurora in the woods—it also takes off in new directions. It redefines true love and showcases female empowerment. This is the second Disney movie in a row I’ve seen (after Frozen) where the women are in control and don’t need saving by some guy. In light of the misogyny in recent news, this is a welcome thing.

maleficentThe main reason to see Maleficent, though, is Jolie. She commands the screen whether she’s being big and powerful, vulnerable, or funny. An actor with less screen presence might’ve been swallowed up by the dramatic costumes and horns and awesome wings, but Jolie wears them, not the other way around.

The movie veers into kiddie land with technicolor magical creatures flitting about while the teenage Aurora (Elle Fanning) looks on in wonder, and some plot points are underdeveloped, but Jolie will keep the adults entertained.

Nerd verdict: Jolie is a magnificent Maleficent

Photos: Walt Disney Pictures



  • Reply
    May 30, 2014 at 5:10 am

    Thanks for the timely review, PCN! We were contemplating going to see it this weekend. Live action, G-rated, Disney movies that aren’t chimpanzee documentaries are always a big risk in the grown-up enjoyment area, but Maleficent sounds pretty good.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 30, 2014 at 10:35 am

      This is rated PG so it’s not too cute, though you will have to deal with magical creatures and pixies acting silly. At times, like during the battle scenes, I thought it might be too dark for really little kids (6 and under) but of course those were the more compelling scenes for the adults. Let me know what you two think!

      • Reply
        June 2, 2014 at 5:04 am

        It was great. I liked MUCH better than Frozen, (the last Disney movie that we saw). The silly pixies didn’t bother me, but you are right, I think that the battle scenes and some of the overall themes would be a little intense for kids. If I have one critique, it would be that Sharlto Copley just didn’t seem to fit the character.

        Now I want to go back and watch the 1959 Sleeping Beauty film and pay attention to the Maleficent scenes.

        • Reply
          Pop Culture Nerd
          June 2, 2014 at 10:16 am

          I thought FROZEN was just OK so yes, I liked this much better. Glad you did, too.

          I was happy to see Copley because he was so good in DISTRICT 9 and I thought we’d get an edgy king in a Disney film, but his character wasn’t well developed so he had little to do.

          I have SLEEPING BEAUTY but unfortunately it’s VHS and I don’t know if we still have our player somewhere or if we’d donated it. I have a whole classic Disney movie collection, all in VHS.

  • Reply
    May 30, 2014 at 9:29 am

    I’m very glad to read your review, since I was both excited and dreading this film. I think Disney’s cartoon Maleficient was one of the most iconic film villains, and (although I loved the casting and the early scenes frome the trailers) I feared the story would not live up to the promise. I glad you think it did.

    I’ll line up at the movies right away. Thanks for your review!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      May 30, 2014 at 10:39 am

      Hi Poncho, long time no see here! The story has some holes and, as I said above to Eddy, contains moments obviously aimed at kids, but Jolie does such a good job giving emotional life to Maleficent that it’s worth seeing. At one point, I felt really, really bad for her. I’d be interested in your thoughts, too. (I liked this more than the new X-Men movie, by the way. Have you seen that?)

  • Reply
    Holly West
    May 31, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Okay, you’ve convinced me. I’m not a huge Angelina Jolie fan, but I can totally see her owning this role. I’m putting it on my movie-going list.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      June 2, 2014 at 10:06 am

      Yay! She owned the role AND the movie. I hope you like it, Holly!

Leave a Reply