Can Angelina Jolie Bring Maleficent to Life?

Posted: November 14, 2013 by Sam in Animation, Movies, Trailers
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Jolie as MaleficentThe first trailer for Walt Disney Pictures’ Maleficent has dropped and I can’t say that I’m entirely sold on the movie thus far. A prequel and quasi-reboot to Disney’s animated Sleeping Beauty (1959), Maleficent tells the story of the titular character, played by Angelina Jolie, who lives a peaceful life in the forest until an invading army forces her to become a protector of her enchanted homeland, ultimately leading her down a path that changes her pure heart to one of evil. But Maleficent may be able to find redemption in Aurora, the child she cursed who holds the key to peace in the kingdom.

Maleficent is, by far, one of the most popular Disney villains and I think the reason for this is the theatricality of the character, not just in her design, but in her personality. The animated Maleficent is an evil fairy who appears to revel in her position of power that inspires fear in the people King Stefan’s kingdom and other fairies like Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. She has personality coming out of her horns, whether it’s her anger at her minions or taunting Prince Philip with a glimpse of his future self wearily riding to the tower after 100 years to “save” the ageless sleeping Aurora. And we all know that third act battle between Maleficent the dragon and Prince Philip is the highlight of the entire movie.

Maleficent from Sleeping BeautyBased on the description for the film and what little we get of Maleficent, I can’t say that I’m excited to see it just yet. I don’t mind sympathizing with the villain of a story, or in the case of this movie, the “villain”, but retooling the whole thing in order to justify a “she wasn’t really evil” story takes away from what made Maleficent such a fun villain. Isn’t it enough that she’s evil? Do we need to have a back story for that? Maleficent is like the Disney villain version of The Joker; she’s evil because she likes being evil. Yes, I’m sure something led her to that moment, but is it so important that we have to explore her origin story? This is a woman who got offended that she wasn’t invited to a celebration in honor of Aurora’s birth and cursed the girl because of the poor manners of her parents. End of story. The stakes are fairly low when compared to the live action movie’s intention to turn Maleficent into some kind of warrior fairy who falls from grace. True, Aurora’s life hangs in the balance, but it’s only Aurora’s life that’s at risk, not everyone and everything in whole world. This feels very much in the vein of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Snow White and the Huntsman where a studio and scriptwriters try to epic-ify something that doesn’t need to be altered so drastically. Again, Sleeping Beauty ends with Maleficent as a dragon surrounded by thorns and green fire!

But this is all based on my bias towards the animated film, which is my mother’s favorite Disney film and was always on at some point when I was a child. The trailer itself isn’t bad, save for Elle Fanning’s (Aurora) rough British accent. We don’t see a lot of Jolie as Maleficent, but when we do she definitely looks the part minus the green-toned skin. A lot of people have pointed out that giving her green skin would create too many Wicked comparisons. Maybe so. Wicked is more culturally prominent than Maleficent, at the moment, but you’d think Disney would have some faith in Jolie and the character to maintain her classic look in its entirety. The green skin marks her separation from the other fairies just as much as her black robes and horned headdress. It is possible that her skin color could change during the film to indicate her fall, but I’m sure that won’t be revealed until the movie comes out. As far as Jolie’s few lines of dialogue…they’re fine. Her last line is more chilling and reminiscent of her animated counterpart and I hope that in the trailers to come, and there will be, that we get to hear more of her dialogue. I’d hate for them to reduce a vibrant and charismatic villain into a subdued, smoldering anti-hero. It’s going to take a lot for Jolie to match Eleanor Audley‘s performance.

Until such a time when they release the next trailer, or when the film comes out May 30th, 2014, enjoy this compilation of Maleficent’s scenes from Sleeping Beauty.

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