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June 4, 2014

Darkness and light, Love is might

by Abir Muhuri, Online Entertainment Editor
Disney's animated version of "Sleeping Beauty" ends like any other Disney fairy tale: the characters all live happily ever after. Well, almost all of them do. When it comes to the evil fairy Maleficent, viewers are happy to forget that she even existed.

The backdrop of the movie is the conflict between a medieval kingdom of humans and a magical realm of fairies called the Moors. A young fairy Maleficent falls in love with a peasant boy named Stefan from the nearby kingdom. Years later, Stefan (Sharlto Copley), in service of the kingdom, is ordered to kill his once-beloved Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), now keeper of the Moors. Instead, he cuts off her wings to present to the king. Infuriated, Maleficent becomes a vengeful enemy of Stefan (now king) and lays a curse on his newborn, Aurora. On her sixteenth birthday, the princess will prick her finger on a needle and fall into a death-like sleep only reversible by true love's kiss. The plot continues much like the animated version, with Aurora (Elle Fanning) living in the woods with her three guardian fairies. However, Maleficent also keeps a watch over the young princess and develops a maternal love for her. With Maleficent's feelings changed and a fate that can't be reversed, Aurora will either be doomed or "true-love" will set her free.

Maleficent

(released May 30, 2014)
Courtesy of hollywoodreporter.com
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Angelina Jolie shines the spotlight on Disney's most infamous villain.

Jolie wears the many faces of Maleficent's character masterfully. Starting as a graceful and sensual young woman, Jolie screams with anger and lament when Stefan betrays her. When she takes the stage as the villain of the kingdom, Jolie slurs her speech artfully, cackles like a witch and affirms her power as an avenger. Every gesture becomes evil. Then she transforms again, her heart softening at the sight of Aurora growing through the years. From calling the young baby "beastie" as a playful nickname to crying at seeing Aurora's peril, Jolie gradually transitions from love to hate to love again with a natural tempo.

While Jolie's acting is truly a masterpiece that of the other actors isn't. Copely quickly becomes a fanatical ruler determined to slay Maleficent. His abrupt change lacks luster and the emotional involvement needed during his heated battle with Jolie. Fanning accurately paints the picture of the spirited and radiant Princess, but struggles to form a bond with Jolie's character.

In terms of plot development, 97 minutes is not quite enough to fully show the complexity of Jolie's feelings for Princess Aurora. Although it is apparent from the beginning that Stefan turns Maleficent into a bitter figure, Jolie's return to her loving and kind self isn't as clear. Director Robert Stromberg only lets the audience see a few snippets of the princess's childhood, and Maleficent's changed attitude comes as somewhat of a surprise. Direction timing issues aside, Jolie still manages to deliver with finesse.

With a fantastical story comes fantastical scenery. Cinematographer Dean Semler and editors Chris Lebanzon and Richard Pearson go above and beyond to achieve a stunning backdrop. Lush green grasses, crystalline waters and carefully animated/drawn forest creatures decorate The Moors. Reminiscent of "The Hobbit" at first, the film's look evolves into desolate and dark scenes of cloudy skies, a gloomy castle and a newly gray and lifeless land. The movie's contrast between these two equally impressive settings is sure to delight viewers.
Overall, despite some plot and character development glitches, "Maleficent" stands as a great work mixing the old with the new. Jolie's role as the newly reinvented central figure pays a nostalgic yet refreshing tribute to the story we all know and love as Sleeping Beauty.

Maleficent is rated PG for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images and is playing in theaters everywhere



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