The tale of “Sleeping Beauty,” a princess who sleeps for a hundred years until awoken by true love’s kiss, was originally written to instruct the reader about virginity and marriage — Princess Aurora, or “Briar Rose,” as she is called in the Grimms’ famous version of the tale, pricks her finger on a spinning wheel, a symbol of loss of virginity and her own inability to resist premature sexual curiosity and wait until marriage.
This didactic fairy tale spawned the release of the 1959 Disney movie and has since become one of the most well known stories in popular culture.
One trend of the 2000s has been a rethinking of classic stories, or retelling of such stories from different points of view — 2012’s star-studded “Snow White and the Huntsman” is a recent example.
Yet there is a way to do this well, and present a unique outlook on a well-known work, such as with “Wicked,” the untold stories of the witches of Oz, and a way to completely butcher a classic — like Tim Burton’s visually spectacular but otherwise lackluster version of “Alice in Wonderland.”
Disappointingly, “Maleficent” falls into the latter category. It is not “Sleeping Beauty” from the well-known villain’s perspective. Rather, the film uses the same characters to tell an entirely different story — one that has almost no relation to the original “Sleeping Beauty” and is certainly not better or more universal in theme.
The film begins with a child Maleficent, who, parentless and living peacefully in the moors outside of a nearby kingdom, meets an orphaned young boy of the kingdom and the two share a brief and innocent romantic affair. When he later becomes king, he betrays Maleficent, leaving her heartbroken and physically wounded, and she seeks revenge by casting a spell on his infant daughter that will cause her to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into a sleep-like death on her 16th birthday.
Maleficent’s themes, revenge and forgiveness, are painfully familiar, and some scenes feel so forced that they almost made me cringe. Although the film provides explanations for several details that the original Disney film does not — such as why Maleficent, a fairy, lacks wings, and why her sidekick is a crow — much of the plot is heavily flawed.
The only real highlight of the film was Angelina Jolie. Her beautiful features and bold expressions brought the iconic villain to a new level of reality. Yet the blandness and absurdity of the drastically revised story, which attempts to portray Maleficent in a positive light, weighed Jolie down in this film, and I would have liked her more if she were actually evil.
The characters, other than Maleficent, were dull and underdeveloped, especially Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning), who was sweet, yet frustratingly naïve and one-dimensional throughout the film.
The moral of the story is: the camera loves Jolie. Yet isn’t that already common knowledge?
Also, that catchy Lana del Rey cover of “Once Upon A Dream” doesn’t play until the end credits and feels incredibly out of place at that point.
NOT RECOMMENDED: “Maleficent” is an illogical and disrespectful mutilation of a classic fairy tale that cannot be taken seriously.