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‘Maleficent’ Review: Starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning & Sharlto Copley

Is there a bigger Queen in Hollywood than Angelina Jolie? It’s amazing how the actress who wore a vial of Billy Bob Thornton’s blood around her neck and was kissing her brother after her Oscar win is the same actress who is now engaged to Brad Pitt, has six children, remains at the top of the Hollywood A-list and is basically Mother Earth. Of course, none of this plays into how Jolie is as an actress, but the fact that this woman can juggle all of her personal responsibilities and still remain a fantastic actress after a break in movies for nearly four years is pretty incredible. And though Maleficent may not be a perfect film, there is no denying that Jolie is miraculously brilliant as our title villain.

Maleficent tells the untold story of the striking villain from the classic tale Sleeping Beauty. As the film opens, we are introduced to two different worlds. One human world, where a king and queen reign and a fairyland world filled with magical creatures. We are introduced to a very young Maleficent (Isobelle Molloy) who meets a young farm boy Stefan (Michael Higgins) in the magical forest. Over the years the two form a friendship and eventually develop love for one another.

As the years pass by, now the older Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and Stefan (Sharlto Copley) see less of each other, each driven to protect their homeland. Stefan desperately wants to move up in the kingdom and replace King Henry (Kenneth Cranham), who will soon die after Maleficent injured him in battle. Overcome by ambition and greed, Stefan takes Maleficent’s wings and brings them to King Henry claiming he has avenged him. Maleficent is left grief stricken and most of all vengeful, wanting nothing more than to take Stefan down.

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When Stefan later produces an heir, the Princess Aurora, Maleficent places a curse on the infant that will have her fall into a sleep-like death before the sun sets on her 16th birthday. Stefan sends Aurora away to live with three fairies, Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), Flittle (Lesley Manville) and Thistletwit (Juno Temple) in hopes that they will protect her for the next 16 years. Little do they know as the Princess grows up, Maleficent has been watching from a distance. As the years pass, the now 15-year-old Aurora (Elle Fanning) finally meets the wicked fairy face-to-face in the forest.

First time director Robert Stromberg, who won Oscars for Best Art Direction for 2010’s Avatar and 2011’s Alice in Wonderland, knows how to make a movie visually beautiful and Maleficent is striking in parts. Linda Woolverton’s (2010’s Alice in Wonderland) screenplay is good, but the storytelling feels rushed at times, especially in the christening scene. What could easily be considered the most famous scene in the 1959 animated Disney film, where Maleficent curses the Princess feels too quick. Angelina Jolie makes that scene one of the best in the movie with her electrifying performance and wicked laughter, but we needed to see more from the three fairies and perhaps a little more from the King and Queen.

Though the story focuses heavily on Maleficent, as it should, this leaves little room for the other supporting characters to fully flourish in the film. Maybe with the exception of Maleficent’s crow Diaval (a surprising Sam Riley), who she turns into a human so he can act as her eyes, ears and wings as he flies around the kingdom bringing the news back to his mistress. But the story offers too little of Prince Phillip (Brenton Thwaites), who has a much greater role in the animated film. Even teenage Aurora (Elle Fanning) is only introduced midway through the movie.

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Unfortunately the film’s 3D is rubbish. Let’s look forward to a time where this 3D trend is no longer a thing in movie theatres. If the 3D doesn’t particularly add a great deal to the story, (i.e. 2011’s Hugo or 2013’s Oz the Great and Powerful) it needs to be left out. At the beginning of the film, when Maleficent’s fairyland is full of color, the 3D offers no dimension of the landscape and when the film’s coloring turns into a gothic palette about 25 minutes into the movie, the 3D only darkens the picture. The film is best viewed in 2D and I’m sure will look even more spectacular on the Blu-ray when it is released.

Angelina Jolie gives one of the most defining performances of her career as our title character and carries this fairy tale until the end. Though Jolie could have had a slightly better screenplay to work with, she manages to bewitch the audience as we watch her story unfold on screen. Never again will we watch the 1959 animated classic without thinking about her Maleficent.

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