Disney has never and will never be accused of under-utilizing a brand. Why go to the trouble of creating something brand new when you can take something old and make money off it? Sleeping Beauty is one of Disney’s oldest franchises (the original, animated movie came out in 1959) and is also one with the most untapped potential. It doesn’t even have a direct to DVD sequel! And so Sleeping Beauty becomes the latest
The film spans the time from Maleficent’s childhood until the end of the classic Sleeping Beauty tale. That’s a lot of material to go through in a relatively short time, which is probably why there are parts of the movie that feel as though they’ve been ripped apart and stitched back together a dozen times. This is particularly problem in the beginning; once Aurora grows into Elle Fanning, the movie becomes much more cohesive.
I really appreciated that the movie provided reasoning for Maleficent’s actions without excusing them. The film shows quite clearly that cursing Aurora was The Wrong Thing To Do. I was a little afraid the movie would just make up a whiny backstory and turn one of Disney’s greatest villains into an overly tropey tragically misunderstood victim. Nope. Instead, she’s a complex character who makes mistakes. Bravo, Disney.
While it is a beautiful experience, the movie lacks thematic direction. Is it about the nature of love? The strength of redemption and change? The power hatred and fear can hold over us? Or is it just about enjoying some popcorn and Angelina Jolie’s razor cheekbones?
In terms of appropriate age range, again, I have to say Maleficent is somewhat unfocused. Parts seemed geared toward a young audience (i.e. the antics of the fairies, the sing-songy female narrator), while other facets of the movie are decidedly more grown-up in tone. I can’t be the only one who saw the taking of Maleficent’s wings as an allegory for rape, can I? In addition, some of the visuals are decidedly dark and scary. Older kids should be fine, but this movie would’ve terrified me when I was little. Then again, Fraggle Rock terrified me, so maybe I’m not the best metric.
Jolie gives the role her all, truly. She revels in her evil smiles, which she has down pat. This movie has flaws, but Jolie is not for a second one of them. She managed to portray a complicated character while wearing prosthetic cheekbones, crazy contacts, and horns. And she did her own stunts. And she helped design Maleficent’s look. And she handpicked Lana Del Rey to sing the theme. I’ll stop fangirling now.
I will say Young Aurora is played by Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, which takes you a bit out of the movie. There’s no mistaking those lips. Also taking you out of the movie is
Have I mentioned how ridiculously beautiful the movie was? It honestly might be the straight up prettiest live action movie I’ve ever seen. They did a great job of matching Disney’s original Sleeping Beauty which is particularly impressive, given how stylized that movie is. A lot of the dialogue in the christening scene is taken directly from the animated film. Jolie even managed to match Eleanor Audley’s tone. Sorry I’m really stopping now.
Fairytale Bits and Pieces
The fairies have inexplicably been renamed Knotgrass, Thistlewit, and Flittle. Was that necessary? (No, no it was not.)
Knotgrass is played by Imelda Staunton, who still looks like Dolores Umbridge in all that pink.
In the original Disney movie, Princess Aurora gets the gift of beauty and the gift of song. Here, song is replaced by the much more sensible gift of happiness.
The song that plays over the credits is a cover of “Once Upon A Dream” sung by the aforementioned Lana Del Rey. It’s a hauntingly beautiful update to the Disney classic. I’ve been listening to it for months.
Maleficent has a buddy cop sort of thing going on with her raven, Diaval, which is quite amusing.
two and a half out of three once upon a dreams
sunbunny, certified Disneyologist and lover of pretty things