Cinema Review – Maleficent

Angelina Jolie plays Maleficent, a fairy whose good heart was hardened, turning her into the Mistress of All Evil, and causing her to curse the newborn baby Aurora. For the first time, we find out more about the woman behind the evil, and learn what drove her to such desperate actions. There is little doubt that Angelina Jolie looks incredible in her turn as Maleficent; her Lady Gaga-esque cheekbones, vivid lipstick and some incredibly bright contact lenses all turning her into the Mistress of All Evil, and the chance to see a live action version of a familiar story, while focusing on the villain, is a refreshing change. Angelina Jolie is the best she has been in years as Maleficent. Jolie allows the character to grow and evolve throughout the film, and her relationship with those around her is wonderful. It is obvious that the actress relished the role, and the chance to play a character who is outwardly evil, and she shines. The brilliance of the performance though, is Jolie’s ability to show Maleficent’s vulnerability as well as her cruel side, and marry the two into the same character. Sharlto Copley plays Stefan, the man who Maleficent fell in love with, and the man who betrayed her. Copley does not have a lot of room to do much here, but does well with what he has. Elle Fanning is a little annoying as the teenage Aurora, but then, this is a character who has been ‘blessed’ by the fairies to have everyone fall in love with her, and be filled with wonder at the world around her, so she can be forgiven. Lesley Manville, Juno Temple and Imelda Stanton play the good fairies, and it seems as though they were transplanted into Maleficent from another film. There is nothing wrong with their performances per se, but their frivolous, slapstick antics do not seem to fit in with Maleficent and her world. Sam Riley has a lot of fun as Diaval – a crow who Maleficent turned into a man to save his life – and although he may not have much to do he has fun with what he has given, and is the voice of reason to Maleficent’s evil. Linda Woolverton’s screenplay firmly plants Maleficent at the centre of the action, and twists the Sleeping Beauty story around, to make it clear that Maleficent was the wronged party, and had just reasons for her actions. Sadly, the story does end up becoming a little like a scorned woman’s attempt at revenge, but Maleficent is such as well written character, that audience sympathy immediately lies with her. Director Robert Stromberg has had a long career as a VFX artist, but this is his first time directing the action. This combination of skill and experience shows, with some messy pacing and underdeveloped characters, but a world that is visually stunning. There are some beautiful scenes and great moments throughout the film, not least the knowledge that one of the young versions of Aurora is played by Jolie’s daughter, and the enjoyment that comes from watching them on screen together. Maleficent is a clever twist on an old tale. Jolie carries the film on her capable shoulders, reminding us of her skill as an actress. The rest of the cast wither in her shadow, the pacing is rather messy and there are some questionable and sometimes annoying story choices, but overall Maleficent is an enjoyable journey. Just don’t think about it too deeply. Rating: 3.5/5

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