Maleficent (2014) Directed by Robert Stromberg. With Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley and Sam Riley.
Directed by Robert Stromberg, with Angelina Jolie in the title role. Maleficent is a reworking of a classic mythology, telling the story of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the antagonist, creating an intriguing twist on the existing legend.
Angelina Jolie is a commanding presence as Maleficent, bringing an aura that makes her a perfect fit for the role. For Jolie herself, it seems like the right role at the right time in her career. Her striking looks speak for themselves, but she now carries the added bonus of a certain maturity that seeps into her performance. Jolie has a habit of being bigger than the films she stars in, creating iconic imagery for films undeserving of her talents. Think of Tomb Raider, Salt or Wanted – all those films are memorable because of her, not because of their own inherent quality.
Refreshingly, while Jolie is Maleficent’s best attribute, Robert Stromberg, aided by a concise screenplay by Linda Woolverton, keeps a tight grasp on the materiel, never allowing it to drift into self-indulgence, as has been the case with many ‘fantasy epics’ of the last decade. Clocking in at just 97mins, Stromberg wastes no time setting up the plot, providing us with a succinct back-story foundation. Once we’re acquainted, the pacing ensures a certain purpose to the narrative that doesn’t attempt to over-sedate us with unnecessarily elongated scenes – The Hobbit anyone?
The ying to Jolie’s yang is actress Elle Fanning, as Aurora. Fanning asserts a naivety that arouses a curious contrast of innocence vs darkness, allowing both performances to compliment each other whenever they are on screen together.
It will come as no surprise to find that the special effects are predominantly computer generated, yet because this story lives in our minds eye as a piece of cartoon animation, the over-reliance on CGI is never problematic. The wardrobe and art design teams do a fine job of providing the actors with the tools to come to life as the characters, particularly so for Jolie, who wears a cross between full-body black leather and long gothic drapes underneath the signature horns that make her such a fascinating watch.
There are, though, things that could be better. An early betrayal that sets events in motion isn’t particularly convincing, emotionally. It is, perhaps, the price way pay for the energy built into a screenplay that’s intention is to ‘cut to the chase’. Whatever the reason, it feels overlooked.
Boasting iconic imagery, Maleficent does a fine job of bridging the gap between harder-edged, modern dark fantasy and classic fairytale themes. James Newton Howard’s perfectly balanced score mirrors the clash in styles and era’s, contributing to an entertaining film that makes the most of its distinguished star. 3.5/5