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MALEFICENT

MALEFICENTAngelina Jolie is magnificent in this Disney remake of Sleeping Beauty, a classic fairy tale now told anew from the POV of the female villain (the eponymous “Maleficent”).

Kudos to screenwriter Linda Woolverton (who also gave us the screenplays for Beauty & the Beast, The Lion King etc), as well as Robert Stromberg (a first-time director who already has two Oscars for Art Direction).

Together with the whole cast and crew, Jolie, Stromberg, and Woolverton have created a luminous world full of deep meaning that goes well beyond the splendid Special Effects.

Elle Fanning provides genuine sweetness and light in the critical role of Princess Aurora, and Janet McTeer gives her all to the plummy-voiced narrator who makes “Once Upon a Time” sound both reassuring and inviting. (JLH: 4/5) AuroraFB

Click HERE for our FF2 Haiku. NOT YET SEEN BY RICH.

Top Photo: Despite all efforts to save her, “Princess Aurora” (Elle Fanning) succumbs to Maleficent’s curse and becomes a “Sleeping Beauty” who can only be awakened by “love’s true kiss.”

Middle Photo: As Princess Aurora approaches her critical 16th birthday (the day the curse is to take hold), she plunges deeper and deeper into the forest searching for the source of the mysterious shadow that has followed her since childhood.

Bottom Photo: The awesome “Maleficent” (Angelina Jolie) seen while fully engaged in the exercise of her vast powers.

Photo Credits: Frank Connor/Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

FullStrength

Q: Does Maleficent pass the Bechdel Test? Absolutely!

With the single exception of the banter between Maleficent and her raven “Diaval” (played when in human form by Sam Riley), all the important relationships in Maleficent are relationships between women. DigitalStampA

Most significant, of course, is the relationship Maleficent has with Princess Aurora. But there are also three [female] fairies who are tasked with protecting Princess Aurora after Maleficent curses the royal infant at her christening. Played by Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, and Juno Temple, these three fairies provide a ditzy counterpoint to Angelina Jolie’s highly charismatic but definitely dark intelligence. They also make it easy to understand why Aurora, as she gets older, chooses to follow Maleficent’s shadow into the forest, if only to escape from their domestic camaraderie (which definitely lays on a hefty dose of estrogen).

Maleficent’s flaw, in fact, is that none of the male characters are able to carry the weight assigned to them by the narrative. The actors cast in the critical role of “Stefan” (Michael Higgins as “Young Stefan,” Jackson Bews as “Teen Stefan,” and Sharlto Copley as “King Stefan”) are all so ordinary in affect and appearance that it is impossible to believe that Maleficent was ever in love with Stefan at any age or any time.

Brenton Thwaites is equally lightweight as “Prince Phillip” (Princess Aurora’s intended), although the open ending allows us to believe that he might eventually grow into his role as her consort.

+++++ SPOILER ALERT: WHAT’S NEW? +++++

Full Disclosure: When I went to see Maleficent, I had very little memory of Disney’s first version of Sleeping Beauty, which was originally released in theatres in 1959, and then re-released — in theatres — several times thereafter.  Sleeping Beauty arrived on DVD in 2008 and is now available in various formats.  (Note, however, if you want Instant Video, you must wait until October.)

I am sure I saw it way back when, but exactly when? I have no idea. Going in to Maleficent, all I could tell you for sure was that Disney had transformed the theme from Peter Tchaikovsky’s poignant Sleeping Beauty Ballet from 1890 into a romantic ballad — for Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip — called “Once Upon a Dream.”

But watching Sleeping Beauty again after seeing Maleficent, what’s most striking is how little screen time this crucial character has. It’s not just that Maleficent has no back story; she barely even has a point of view.

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