Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Think you know the story of Sleeping Beauty and her tormentor Maleficent?  You might know a version of the story, but not the real story because as my man William Wallace said in that movie 'Braveheart', history is written by the victors.  But if that were true, and if this story went down the way the movie says it went down, that would mean that the history that we are familiar with was actually written by the losers.  That doesn't make any sense, now does it?  We will just ignore all of that nonsense and enjoy 90 or so minutes of a great Angelina Jolie, great CGI by abused CGI artists and a bunch of other stuff, some of it really scary, in Disney's retelling of Sleeping Beauty… 'Maleficent'.

Some old lady (Janet McTeer) narrates about the two lands, one where we human types live and live miserably, as it is simply our disposition, and the other where the moors live in a land of fantasy, magic and happiness.  In this land there is a young faerie named Maleficent and she is the sweetest girl you would ever want to see, despite her horns and demon wings.  One day Maleficent meets a human named Stefan, and they would become friends.  Now these two met while Stefan was trying to steal something, which should've been a hint, then he mentioned how he was poor and was going to be king one day, which should've been a second hint as to this dudes character, but these two would fall in love until circumstance and Stefan's ambition drew them apart.

Eventually Maleficent would grow to be queen of this land, but unfortunately, as humans tend to do, we have determined this land has stuff we need and we are going to take it!  The king rally's his troops, but Maleficent and her army of mystical creatures beats them down, and this king is mortally wounded.  But on his death bed, he says the man who can bring death to Maleficent will inherit his kingdom and the hand of his daughter.  Stefan (Sharlto Copely) was in that room on this day, and he took those words to heart.
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Now without getting too much into the details, Stefan reacquaints himself with Maleficent, gains her trust, does something really bad to her and claims the crown.  He will also sire a daughter who will unfortunately be on the receiving end of an awful curse by an angry and vengeful Maleficent… you know, the whole sleeping beauty, loves true kiss thing… causing the King to send baby Aurora away to be raised in secret, away from the vengeful Maleficent. 

Well Maleficent, along with her trusty sidekick Daival the crow (Sam Riley) know exactly where Aurora is, and in fact, considering that idiots the king trusted to raising Aurora are terrible at baby raising, if Maleficent weren't around to keep an eye on her, she'd be dead already.  Maleficent has to keep her alive so her curse can take hold on her sixteenth birthday, because where would be the fun in that. 

Then the strangest thing happens.  As Aurora (Elle Fanning) grows, Maleficent becomes drawn to her.  To the point where she's kind of regretting the whole curse thing.  And Aurora is drawn to Maleficent in the kind of love that can only be shared between a mother and child.  Ah, but then there's the curse, and it's a doozie.  Not to mention that King Stefan has completely lost his mind.  Totally Bonkers would be the word we would use.  But at the end of the day, it will still come down to Love's True Kiss.

If one were to be critical about 'Maleficent', and believe me, there are things one can criticize, one could say that a lot of the story and characters are underdeveloped.  We here at the FCU are of the opinion that Sharlto Copely is an awesome actor, but it seems everything was done here to de-awesomize this poor man.  Thus we have no basis as to why a beautiful, full lipped, high cheekbone possessing, glassy eyed faerie would be attracted to this clearly awful person in the first place.  The same could be said for Princess Aurora who also didn't get much by way of development to let us know, outside of a line or two, why she is so drawn to this horned woman who seems to have nothing but disdain for her very existence.  I'm sure a lot of the scenes for Stefan and Aurora are on some cutting room floor, since 'Maleficent' reeks of a film needing to be fixed and doctored which might explain why the movie is so relatively brief, almost rushed, and why the things we mainly did see were the two things that ultimately made this film entertaining.

Those two things would be Angelina Jolie and jaw dropping special effects.  While the character development was light, when Angelina Jolie is your lead, you just kind of hope she can sell you with her own talent and hope she can drag the other characters along, and she almost pulls this off.  Because Maleficent is so dominant, and magnetic, it makes whatever shortcoming the other characters had almost negligible.  And whatever gaps Jolie couldn't fill, the VFX unit and the wonderful, magical world they created took care of the rest. 

One thing though… the movie is pretty violent, all things considered.  When a movie starts and you see the Disney castle and Tinkerbelle dropping the faerie dust, there's a level of comfort that comes with that.  At the theater I was at, filled with little kids, I could see some genuine fear in the children around me, first during the initial battle with the humans, which was pretty darned brutal, then near the finale in the castle when Maleficent was essentially being tortured along with the giant dragon setting soldiers on fire.  Just something I think parents of younger children should be aware of.

Regardless, when it's all said and done the majority of the movie going public really doesn't care about things like 'character development' or 'incomplete scripting' or any of that nonsense.  That's stuff for critics to whine about.  These audiences want to have a good time at the movies, and that's pretty much it.  'Maleficent', on the strength of its star and its VFX magicians is a very good time at the movies.
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