I’m still not convinced by Disney doing live action remakes of their classic films. I am of the generation who grew up when the likes ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ were being released, while classics like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty were already there to be a staple of my childhood as well. I feel as if Disney are just being lazy in terms of their creativity by remaking films that are already successful. I haven’t seen them all, and I might be convinced if I do watch them, but only if I convince myself they are worth the effort.
However, when it came to Maleficent I was more convinced that Disney were carrying to do something different, by setting it from the perspective of the villain Maleficent, who has always been one of my favourites from the classics. When I heard that the screenwriter, Linda Wolverton, had also based the screenplay on ‘La Belle au Bois Dormant’ by Charles Perrault, the original Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, and not just on the existing Disney animation, I was convinced enough to go to the cinema to see it.
I wasn’t disappointed.
The film is a wonderful re-imagining of the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty. I’m not the biggest fan of Angelina Jolie, but in this film the casting was absolutely perfect and while her costume certainly helped with her screen presence, at no point are you in any doubt that Maleficent is a powerful, strong and yet deeply emotional character. Yes, Maleficent is a villain and she vents her anger towards the king rather unjustly by directing it at Aurora, but over time her regret over that decision sends a powerful message: your actions have consequences.
The other thing I really love about the film, especially in comparison to the animated film, is at Aurora is portrayed as a normal teenager. She is kind spirited, good natured, and she remains an innocent child. She is supposed to be sixteen at the oldest, but at no point is she perceived to be any more grown up than that.
While I loved the Disney films as a child, many of the expectations I had of how grown up I’d be when I reached my late teens, came from Disney Princesses, who were making adult decisions about their future in terms of marriage and love when in truth they are little more than children.
The innocence of Aurora, the reluctance of Phillip to kiss a sleeping and non-consenting girl, and the focus on sort of true love as sixteen year old is mature enough to comprehend and appreciate fully, that between a child and a parent figure, was refreshing to watch.
That combined with the creative force behind the world-building and the re-imagining of the story makes Maleficent a refreshing change from the usual fairy tale story told by Disney.