Maleficent: A Modern Villainous Heroine


(image credit: Disney)



If you have been listening to Its All Geek To Me for longer than two weeks, you know just how excited I (Cate) have been for the release of the Disney live-action Maleficent starting Angelina Jolie. Maleficent has been a favorite of mine since I was very small (evidence: I could perfectly pronounce her name at age 5) which, I think, hyped me up even more.

If you are an 80’s baby like me, then you are probably expecting this film to be the origin story of how Maleficent became the evil fairy that we all know and love. You would be wrong. While, yes, this was a film about Maleficent’s origins (feeling a lot like Elphaba’s origin story as The Wicked Witch), there is a completely new twist on the story that brings it forward from the ‘poor Disney princess gets cursed’ that we grew up with.

The opening sequence of the film introduces us to a young Maleficent who lives in The Scottish Moors and flies with wings that resemble an Eagle crossed with a Gargoyle. She smiles, laughs, plays and finally falls in love with a human boy named Stefan … wait, hold up! Rewind! What?! Yes, folks, Maleficent becomes the evil she is because Stefan steals something from her before abandoning her and it is more precious than even her wings which he plucks from her back as his trophy. Love turns to hatred and suddenly we see the girl who laughed become a wicked woman who plots.

Ultimately, it is Princess Aurora that begins to crack through the evil exterior of Maleficent. As a small child she finds the fairy in the woods and insists on being picked up (this little cutie was played by Angelina’s daughter Vivienne Jolie-Pitt). As Aurora grows, she begins to call maleficent her Fairy God Mother thus twisting our story further. In the original storyline, Maleficent curses the child because of her anger with King Stefan. This ‘Fairy God Mother’ plot line feels very Cinderella.

Speaking of King Stefan, the boy who once loved Maleficent, but has now stolen her wings and broken her heart, presented those wings to the dying King to gain the throne. His wife falls ill and dies soon after they hide Aurora away with the three good fairies (Flittle, Knotgrass and Thistlewit … I’m sorry, what happened to Flora, Fauna and my girl Merryweather?! More on them in a moment) and does before he has had his vengeance on Maleficent for cursing his daughter. Now, Maleficent would have simply left him be had he not hunted her … idiot. One of my problems with the film was how evil King Stefan was. True, he broke Maleficent for his own gain, and while the lesson to not exploit a loved one for personal gain is valid, I’m not too thrilled with this idea (although the Scottish accents helped remarkably).

When it comes time for the curse to go into effect, Maleficent now cares for Aurora more than she imagined was possible. She watched her grow and kept her safe. Her attempts to revoke the curse go awry and low and behold, Aurora sleeps. This is also where the story gets a little hinky. It is Maleficent’s motherly kiss on a sleeping Aurora’s forehead that awakens her, not Prince Phillip. Again, I see what you’re getting at Disney, she came to love the thing she hated and that is the purest love there is, but … I don’t know. Disney’s new-ish style of film where the woman doesn’t need a man to save her is valid and appropriate in this time, but if we are all about female power why were the fairies tall, thin and beautiful? Flora, Fauna and Merryweather were all different body types in the 1959 animated movie. If they could get it right in 1959, why not 2014?

When it all comes down to it, I throughly enjoyed the movie. It was a fabulous story and the film itself is gorgeous. The costumes by Anna B. Sheppard were stunning, the makeup design by Paul Gooch was flawlessly applied by the multitude of artists on the film and the overall design was breath taking. Angelina Jolie was the perfect choice for this modern-day Villian/heroine.

On the Trekkie scale: four out of five Tribbles for design and execution!

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