Long ago, two realms shared borders in a distant land. One land was ruled by a tyrannical king whose wealth was lost among the townsfolk. The other land grew lush and prosperous, inhabited by magical beings who lived in tune with nature. Cloaked in long, brown wings and adorned with spiraled horns, a young fairy soared through the enchanted Moors, greeting all creatures she encountered on her daily travels. Despite her youth, the fairy guarded the Moors along with her forest friends. One day, an intruder was spotted within the sacred ground – a human child from the neighboring kingdom. He had stolen a precious crystal from the water of the Moors. Met by kindness from the fairy, the boy returned the gem and promised to visit the fairy again. A new friendship soon blossomed into deep affection, christened with a kiss of what was imagined to be the fabled true love. Yet, greed and worldly desires soon consumed the now grown man, separating him from the fairy. She too had grown, proving to be the strongest warrior within the Moors and protector against the malicious humans. And this proud fairy’s story continues on, known as the tale of Maleficent.
Prequel to Disney’s original Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent tells the true tale of a fairy with great magical powers who is swooped down a journey intertwined between her homeland and the nearby kingdom of humans. Portrayed by Angelina Jolie, Maleficent is mysterious and captivating, enticing the audience with hypnotic stares and perfect cheekbones. A new side of the character is revealed beyond the façade of a villain, a hero jaded by the downfalls of humans. Maleficent’s relationship with Aurora (Elle Fanning) becomes one of trust and love instead of fear. As Aurora grows up throughout the film with the misguided but well-intentioned help of the three pixies, she becomes more and more like Maleficent when she was but a child. The two actresses bring new light to these iconic Disney roles, allowing for a new and better glimpse into the story of Sleeping Beauty.
James Newton Howard, composer for films like Treasure Planet, The Dark Knight, and The Hunger Games, delivers once again, creating the perfect backdrop of musical accompaniment for the changing tides of the film. A portion of filming took place in the Buckinghamshire countryside, located in southeast England. The rolling green hills, lush vegetation, and natural rivers allowed for a more realistic approach to the setting of the Moors and forest scenes in the film. Adam Valdez, the special effects director, aimed to create two very different worlds when designing the Moors and the human kingdom, filling the former with explosive colors, colossal mountains, and enchanting plant life. Computer graphics also created the inhabitants of the Moors, Maleficent’s spells, and various backgrounds during many parts of the film. The special effects team worked endlessly to capture a magical realm hosted in reality, a place where audience members could imagine themselves experiencing in their own lives.
I truly prefer this enhanced version of an old tale where the once-thought villain is actually a hero and loving figure to the protagonist. Fairy tales tend to favor humans, typically blaming other species of creatures for the fault of man, making this reinvention refreshing and a more honest approach in the Disney collection of stories. Maleficent’s character alone makes the film a must-see, showing glimpses of human emotion and action based on those feelings. The special effects and musical arrangement mesmerize the senses, and the magical creatures are just too adorable to not enjoy as part of the film. For all fans who want the truth about Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent does not disappoint. True love’s first kiss will have you spellbound.