Review: Maleficent

Posted on May 31, 2014

MALEFICENTAngelina Jolie in Disney Pictures’ “Maleficent”


“Let us tell an old tale anew,” the ever-present and somewhat talkative narrator intones at the start of Disney’s Maleficent. But by the time we got to the story’s end, we wondered if it was really worth the bother. Like 2012’s Snow White and The Huntsman, Maleficent attempts to take a more nuanced look at an old and (by design,) simplistic tale, in that “everything you know is wrong”manner. Like Broadway’s “Wicked,” it attempts to turn a classic villain into a hero – or at least, a villain that cries and has motivations beyond the acquisition of power or the destroying of annoyingly perfect little girls.

It’s an apparently irresistible thing to modern audiences; this retelling of fairy tales and childhood stories by layering them with darkness and angst; meaning and themes. The Tolkienization of Disney. And we’re not sure it’s to the story’s benefit. Fairy tales are supposed to be relatively simple stories populated by characters with the kind of motivations that children can understand. They evolved over time, but they always served the same purpose (outside of entertainment): to teach the very young about difficult concepts like evil and anger and jealousy and to reinforce a basic moral code about goodness and love and family – and also to not trust strangers or go wandering through the woods. Purely universal childhood themes that still resonate centuries after the original stories were devised. Classic old fairy tales were shockingly dark, so the basic idea behind the darkening and deepening concept of this film might’ve worked Β – except we’re talking specifically about Disney characters. And we’re not sure adding paper-thin rape metaphors is something that needed to be done to the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty.

But we’ll say this: it’s stunning to look at. Although someone probably should’ve been told to pull back on the digital effects throttle, because there are times when the visual noise of the film becomes an overwhelming melange of colors and movement; a videogame on acid. We’d have been foolish to expect the film to look anything like the clean, moody, mid-Century-influenced 1959 animated version, but the production design, while amazing, could’ve benefited from some editing with an eye toward that aesthetic. The land of Maleficent, called “The Moors” (which is a darker, edgier, more 2014 way of saying “Fairy Land”) looks like a commercial for a children’s cereal at times. But it’s Disney, so we suppose that’s to be expected. Truly the greatest special effect is Angelina Jolie herself, who gets a little bit of help from prosthetics and some digital trickery and a lot of help from the costume department (who should get well-deserved Oscar nominations – just for the python-skin turban alone), all of which combine to create an entity so amazing to look at that we audibly gasped a couple of times in the theater.

Granted, we’re known to gasp, but still. This was drag on a high level. This was the stratosphere of drag.

And Angelina tears it up, having more fun with this role than anything we’ve seen her do in years. There were times when we wished she could’ve really let loose, because it felt like the script – which required her to go from romantic to demonic to maternal (and sometimes back again; and sometimes all in the same scene) – was holding her back by giving the character far too many conflicting motivations and sudden character turns. In short, when the script calls for Maleficent to be a bitch, she, and by extension, the whole movie, comes alive. When tears streak her prosthetic-enhanced cheeks and the fire literally goes out in her eyes, everything kind of grinds to a halt. And yes, you read those descriptors correctly: romantic and maternal. Weepy mother-daughter and scorned lover drama slathered onto a standard evil witch character – because apparently, these are the only ways you can make a female character more interesting: break her heart, rape her, and make sure she loves children by the time its all over.

Oh, yes. Revisionism. BIG TIME. Consider yourself prepared.

And it’s a shame, because they could’ve had some real fun with her. At the start of the film she’s something like a combination of Gandalf and Luke Skywalker for her people and by the end of the film, she’s kicking ass in a leather catsuit like a superhero. It’s all too much and perhaps a bit too silly, but it was much more interesting to see this character with agency and real motivation; actually doing things for a reason – for good reasons. And besides, she’s terrifying at times. People want to see Maleficent be bitchy and badass. And while the film does give you those moments, there aren’t enough of them for it all to hang together – and they’re broken up by the aforementioned motherhood, rape, and heartbreak themes that only serve to weaken the character and the story.Β Oh, and Elle Fanning is asked to smile repeatedly, but that’s about it. By design, her character is paper thin. Aurora already got her version of the story, so that makes a certain amount of sense, but given how much the story rests on characters loving or hating her, it would’ve been nice if we could have gotten a better sense of who she is. She’s got a great smile and everyone loves her as soon as they meet her. That’s about all you get.

If you love the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty, you’ll probably enjoy this film, and if you love watching Angelina Jolie be more Angelina Jolie than you ever thought possible, you’ll also probably enjoy this film. But if you’re looking for a ripping good story or an interesting new twist on an old one, you’ll probably leave disappointed and frustrated. There are times when it’s fun, but it’s never as fun as it could’ve and should’ve been.




[Photo Credit: Walt Disney]

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  • TheBrett

    I’m waiting for moviemakers to finally get away from the need to have big ass-kicking battles in all of these things with required horn music. You can have dramatic moments and great monsters in fantasy without the need for LOTR-style huge battles.

  • Kat

    It may not be perfect, but I’ll still be seeing it tonight because it’s important to support female leading films. Despite flaws in the script and characterization, there won’t be any way to improve that if sexist Hollywood execs are not shown that female centric films are worth their time and money.

  • alyce1213

    I’m going Wednesday (free screening!). I have no great expectations, but I know I’ll appreciate the art direction/production design. And she’ll be amazing.

  • StillGary

    Thank you!!!!!

  • jtabz

    Granted, we’re known to gasp, but still. This was drag on a high level. This was the stratosphere of drag.
    This line gave me all the smiles. Never change, Internet Uncles.

  • While I see your logic and think you made some really good points here, I have to disagree. I saw the film last night with my mother and 8 year old son. During the scene where Maleficent kisses Aurora, my son wrapped his arms around me and said “She can save her with true love’s kiss – she loves her like only a mother can.” It brought tears to my eyes. My son loved the movie for the visual effects and fight scenes (he indeed compared it to the Hobbit, so spot on with “the Tokienization of Disney – not lost on the 8 year old), but he also understood some more complex themes of the movie (for an 8 year old): He remarked that he thought it was cool that Maleficent could understand that she made a decision in anger that was wrong and never stopped trying to reverse her mistake and fight for the ones she loved. I thought it was refreshing to see Disney take a female lead character and allow her to be flawed, to get mad, to love and go from kind spirited to mean spirited and back again. I didn’t initially think of Stefan’s clipping of her wings to be a rape allegory, though I do see your point, it just didn’t initially strike me that way.

    And yes, Angelina was magnificent as Maleficent (wouldn’t resist). I found her funny at times, and it goes without saying that she has such enormous presence on-screen, and not just because of the prosthetics and costuming and visual effects, but because of the range of emotion and motivation she can convey simply through the cast of her eyes.

    I will agree with you that it seemed that Ell Fanning’s direction seemed to have started and ended with “give a joyful, exuberant smile.”

    • I just want to say I love the way you disagreed with us here. That’s how it’s done. Bravo.

      • aww, shucks. Well, you know what’s that saying? I was spanked as a child and it resulted in a condition known as “Respect for others?” I actually thought of you guys after I saw it last night (that’s not weird, right? To think of 2 people you’ve never met after you see a movie? lol) and actually anticipated that you would love it. It certainly isn’t Oscar winning drama or anything, but I enjoyed the film so much – maybe because of the experience of taking my 8 year old boy to what he thought was ostensibly a princess movie, only to have him walk out chattering on about how awesome it was and Maleficent’s feelings and actions and how great he thought it was that she could change her mind and try to right her own wrongs. From that stand point – I think a lot of kids WILL get it. Maybe not the super young, but this is a PG movie (let’s face she’s kinda scary in a lot of places). I think the updated theme, the one that disembarks from the traditional princess tale of Prince Charming saving the helpless girl is refreshingly instructive to young kids, boys and girls alike.

        • MilaXX

          Your comment was perfect example of “show your work”. Well done.

        • I thought they’d love it too. (It’s not weird.) As I said in another comment, I think more important than teaching kids that evil exists is teaching kids that evil has the potential to exist inside themselves.

          • Raspberry2012

            Exactly. I really loved that, as Anne pointed out, it can show kids – and hey, even some adults – that a decision made in haste, anger and jealousy can possibly have tragic ramifications that you may regret later. I had the toughest customer of all with me – not an 8 year old, noooo no no. I couldn’t have gotten that lucky. I had a gigantic 51 year old NYC Transit worker with me, also known as my boyfriend, who normally wouldn’t see anything like this except with a gun to his head, and who would have much rather sat through “Spiderman” instead. But since I had a horrible, stressful week, he gave in and graciously came with me. And he loved it – and believe me, when I tell you what an event that is, that HE loved a Disney movie based on princesses and bad fairies, it says a lot for the film in question.

          • That’s a great story! The film isn’t 100% unique, but nothing is. It’s unique enough.

        • VicksieDo

          Your son sounds pretty amazing!

      • Judih1

        So glad that TLO is now doing movie reviews (you mentioned this at your poledance for you book in SF). And so glad to see the BK’s provide such insightful commentary on movie review. I had not planned on seeing the movie, but now I will

        • I have to agree – I cannot think of anything better than a TLO movie review. πŸ™‚

          • nomoreprinces

            I know! Might actually get me out to the movies more instead of eschewing them for dvd releases from the comfort of my own home and inscessant rewinding to catch a bit of costume or scenery.

      • Raspberry2012

        Seriously! That was brilliant, Anne – much more eloquent than my argument which was all of your same reasoning, but I was too tired to type more, LOL! Beautifully done, and I loved it for all the same reasons you did.

    • Based on the blog post and your reply, I’m interested in seeing the movie now!

    • I love what you’ve said here. I also love the thought of remembering going to see movies with your loved ones. It brings up memories.

      I don’t really remember going to a lot of movies as a kid – we spent a lot of time with my Grandma and she was more of a museum, art gallery, zoo, out and about person. But I do remember when she took me and my sister to see Ghostbusters, and that first scene where the librarian ghost wigs out, my sister totally freaked out and she was holding a bag of “jaffas” which is a round lolly, and she dropped them all over the floor, which was not stairs as it is these days but a sloped floor, and they all rolled about 30 metres to the front of the cinema. Once the audience stopped screaming all you could hear was these lollies rolling down the wooden floor.. πŸ™‚

    • Elaine Rodriguez

      Ummm, spoiler alert would have been nice?

      • What exactly about the review of the movie was not a spoiler? If you don’t want to be spoiled about a movie, don’t read a review of it, and steer clear of the comments section.

        Maybe it is just because I am from Australia and therefore well versed in avoiding TV spoilers, but I would have thought the above was fairly self evident? πŸ™‚

        • annla


          Ohhh, how we would have loved to see Spencer win. And Woo stole our hearts.

      • Why would you read a review of a movie you hadn’t seen if you cared about spoilers? Not trying to be snarky, it just seems kinda obvious that reviews are inherently spoilerish? Same reason when I DVR mad men I don’t read mad style or the review here on TLo until after I’ve gotten caught up. Sorry I spoiled your movie, just honestly thought it was a safe place to comment on plot points. IT’s really good so you should see it anyway πŸ™‚

        • Elaine Rodriguez

          I always read reviews of movies before I see them as I tend to agree with most critics about movies. Sometimes a review will make me decide whether or not I want to see a movie. As this was a review as opposed to a recap, I figured it was safe. The review actually was- TLo mentioned a rape analogy but didn’t specifically mention wing clipping. They said Maleficent was maternal, but didn’t mention her kiss was the “true love’s kiss”-they didn’t mention a kiss at all. You’re probably right about not reading the comments though, I just figured it would be more about the costumes and awesomeness that is Angelina Jolie. Based on the review and now knowing what happens, sounds like a movie I should just wait to see on Netflix or something. It’s really not the biggest deal, I probably shouldn’t have said anything. I just thought, “aw, crap, that sucks.” lol. Glad you and your son liked it though. πŸ™‚

          • Corsetmaker

            I agree with you. Reviews of new movies are completely different to those of TV shows which have already broadcast. People read movie reviews to judge whether to actually go and see it, not just to compare notes on something in the past as they do with TV reviews. Film reviews you generally expect to be safe reading. Although that’s the general ethics in the press, not sure I’d apply that to the internet so much. And comments are a risk no matter what.

        • Raspberry2012

          Plus, you put up your comments with giant letters that said “SPOILER”. You covered your bases – I see no harm, no foul.

      • Raspberry2012

        She put up a spoiler alert.

        • After the fact. She edited the comment. Not that I agree it’s necessary. Good grief, don’t read comments on movie reviews if you don’t want the movie spoiled.

    • WendyD

      I saw the movie the night it opened and I loved it and I generally have a heart of coal, but I do love the original Disney “Sleeping Beauty”. You summed it up what I thought of it very elegantly. I didn’t see a rape allegory in the least, despite the fact that I tend to watch a lot of really dark movies and TV. I took it as a literal fairy tale.

      • Yeah, I didn’t think rape at all. I still don’t see how it fits. He was just taking some part of her to prove that he’d killed her. I guess I never felt like looking for metaphors when it worked fine at face value.

        • NinjaCate

          I didn’t see it at the time, but it is fairly obvious if you think about it. He comes back after years, chats her up, drugs her, and then physically (and painfully) violates her body while she’s sleeping. It’s pretty clear in the way that fairy tale metaphors for sexy times always are.

          • PeaceBang

            I read it immediately as a rape. He didn’t “clip” her wings so much as he amputated them: the symbol of her power and freedom. I thought the whole film did a brilliant job playing with archetypes and metaphors in a way that didn’t distract from the enchantment of the source material.

          • I agree. My word choice was perhaps a bit tame but more a turn of phrase rather than descriptive. I agree with TLo and your perspective, but at the moment I took at face value, not reading any deeper as part of the story.

        • Raspberry2012

          Same here. I never took it as a rape allegory in the least. She was harmed and injured by the person she trusted the most in the world. It doesn’t have to mean “rape”.

        • semirose

          “He was just taking some part of her to prove that he’d killed her.”
          I haven’t seen the movie so I can’t say how it is in context but just reading that part of your comment automatically makes me think of rape.

          • Sure, because you were approaching my comment thinking of rape. Unfortunately you won’t get to test it clean. I saw the movie before reading anything about it so my first impressions stand on their own. Of course, other people had different first impressions, such as TLo.

          • “Angelina Jolie: Maleficent’s Wing-Tearing Scene Is a “Metaphor for Rape”

          • And such as Angelina Jolie. πŸ˜›

            I’ve thought about this more and decided me being a fantasy nut makes me more inclined to take fantasy at face value. I’ve no desire to look for metaphors where they need not be for the narrative to work. One could argue that the fantasy genre, like dystopian, begs to be parsed into metaphors, but I disagree. I’m joy-struck thinking wings are wings. When wings aren’t wings, boo. Way less fun.

      • fursa_saida

        Literal fairy tales and rape/dark story points are not mutually exclusive! In the older versions of Sleeping Beauty, her prince shows up at the castle while she’s sleeping and has sex with her while she’s unconscious (so: rape), and she is awakened when the twins she gives birth to IN HER SLEEP start nursing. Or there’s always Fitcher’s Bird, in which a sorceror/serial killer of women is finally stopped by his last attempted victim, who burns him and all his friends alive.

        I take an interest in these things πŸ™‚

        • leahpapa

          I love this. In college, one of my favorite courses was “Feminist Fairy Tales” (which was not as “sh*t undergraduates say” as it sounds), and it was so enlightening to read older and foreign versions of certain stories, many of which I was familiar with only from the Disney versions. I recall one Inuit folktale that involved a young woman creating a lover for herself through an innovative use of whale blubber. Can’t imagine that coming to a screen near you any time soon πŸ˜‰

          • OffToSeeHim

            I take your point about not coming to a screen near you, but I’d see the SHIT out of that.

          • annla

            Isn’t there an Inuit creation myth where the first human (woman) collects her snot in an oyster shell and makes the first male?

          • fursa_saida

            So very, very late, but: if you’re not already familiar with it, you might enjoy a book called Spinning Straw Into Gold. It’s an academic book on fairy tales in conversation with feminism. It is, I will warn you, at times overly pretentious, and some of her arguments really don’t hold together, but there are some parts of it that hit me really hard (in a good way) when I read it. I didn’t come out of it loving the book or the author, but I do think it’s worthwhile for anyone interested in fairy tales and what they (can) mean for women.

        • annla

          Neil Gaiman has a retelling of Snow White from the queen/step-mother POV that is AWESOME. I think it might only be available as an audio recording because it was a radio play. Bonus: retelling of Lucifer’s story (not from his POV) that had my 10-year-old daughter and I discussing plot and philosophy for hours on a car trip. NG loves his angels. The 2 are together on one CD.

    • Shoelover1512

      I liked that they showed that she came to regret her decision. It wasn’t what I was expecting. My sister and I went to see it opening night (we’re in our 30’s, don’t judge lol) and we were commenting before hand how it would probably be a typical villain has a tragic backstory that shows why she became evil.

      I wasn’t expecting it to be villain gets tragic backstory and does evils things which she ultimately regrets and fights to undo. I thought it was a good change to show that we all have that potential evil inside of us and that it can cause us to make decisions we will regret.

      • ShaoLinKitten

        I haven’t seen the movie, but it sounds a lot like what happens to Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Am I way off?

        • Shoelover1512

          Umm…I have no idea. I probably haven’t seen the Star Wars in decades. I remember being young when they first aired the one with the Ewoks on TV and my dad hooked the TV to the radios speakers…other than that I can’t tell you much about the movies lol

          • ShaoLinKitten

            It’s the whole “parent becomes a terrible villain, then has a change of heart on teenage child’s behalf” storyline that made me think so. I’ll eventually see this movie and then I can compare.

          • Raspberry2012

            Hmmm… you may not be too far off, actually. It’s a fair comparison, I think.

    • Esther

      Anne I just saw it last night with my 11 and 8 year old–tears flowed down my face as Maleficient drew closer to the “beastie” she loved as a dauaghter–my children immediately exclaimed that it would be her kiss that would awaken her! A wonderful twist on an old tale. My daughter exclaimed that she would cry and she resorted to sucking her thumb which she has not done in 3 years she was so moved. I thought the movie was a wonderful retelling. I also construed the violence done to her/removal of her wings as an allegorical rape. The way Angelina heartbreakingly awoke with a cry when she realized/felt her loss was quite a memorable scene. Her hobbling out of the forest and creating her staff to aid her ambulation was another great example of storytelling, explaining a symbol that we all recall from the animated version but given so much more weight when seen in context of the preceding scene.

    • Snarkmeister

      Overheard a little girl about a week ago telling her mom that she wanted to go see “Magnificent.” πŸ˜‰

      As a HUUUUUGE fan of the original movie (“…all the powers of HELL!”) I was pretty disappointed in this movie. I thought Angelina was spectacular as Maleficent, but the cartoony Moors scenes (mud slinging trolls! seventeen thousand different kinds of fairies, all zooming toward the viewer for maximum 3D effect!) seemed thematically incongruous. This movie was a drama, not a comedy. And yes, Elle Fanning seemed almost mentally challenged, she was so shallow and dim. Angelina was worth the price of admission, but the movie as a whole was not great.

  • HomeOfficeGirl

    I wish I could order up the cheek bones prosthetic before I go out tonight… would love to catch glimpses of myself looking like this at dinner.

  • Joey Melliza

    This movie is as excruciating as a tooth extraction

  • MilaXX

    Great review. I was disappointed in Snow White and the Huntman so I was sad to see that many were giving this movie a thumbs down. Now I understand why. This one may go in the way til it hit’s cable pile.

    • Me too. Even more so because I took my two nephews to see it with me.. what a snooze festival it was.

      I’m maybe not a fairy tale person.. πŸ™‚ I won’t go to see it. But I’ll happily watch Angelina’s cheek bones once this appears on my screen.

      • MilaXX

        I like Fairy Tales.I was a child development major so seeing the modern retellings are more interesting to me then Disney versions. I loved Wicked because it looked at the tale from a different angle. I don’t have children so I was hoping Maleficent would be entertaining on both an adult and children’s level. I am not, however a fan of Angel Jolie’s acting (Girl Interrupted & Gia being the lone exceptions) so for a movie that’s getting anywhere from a straight up thumbs down to a mediocre review, I likely take a pass on this.

        • I haven’t seen much that she is in myself – only Girl Interrupted and The Bone Collector which I enjoyed. But those cheek bones look to be incredible in this movie and possibly merit their own starring role..

          Me too no kids – I have nephews and nieces, which I can give back, but I see them so rarely I don’t want to give them back! So it kind of makes the time spent watching a not so great movie with them a little annoying. I’d rather show them some of my favourites that they have never seen.. πŸ™‚

        • bitchybitchybitchy

          I finally read “Wicked” last year, and am still not sure what I think of Maguire’s retelling, but I was impressed that he took on a fictional world that is well known and gave it a different spin. I’ve never seen the musical-probably the only living person who hasn’t

          • MK03

            The musical is nothing like the book. They share a title and some of the same characters and that’s it.

          • MilaXX

            The musical isn’t as dark as some point in the book were, but I liked it all the same.

          • MK03

            I didn’t care much for either. I haven’t read the Oz books, so a lot of the mythology in the book was lost on me, and it’s so dense and weird at times (I still have no idea what the Philosophy Club was about), while the musical virtually ignores the book and makes it a prequel to the movie while fundamentally changing the story of the book. I always wonder what a Sondheim version would have been like.

          • MilaXX

            I liked the book. It worked a different POV. I was fortunate enough to see the play on Broadway and really loved it. I remember seeing small kids in the audience and was surprised they were able to sit and pay attention. Maguire also wrote a sequel. I started it but never finished it. I’m not sure if I was just busy or it wasn’t as good. I don’t think I read more than a few chapters.

          • bitchybitchybitchy

            I was just leafing through “Son of a Witch” this week at the library, and saw that Maguire did four Oz books altogether. I’m still up in the air about reading them.

          • ShaoLinKitten

            I did not like the sequels and wish I’d only read Wicked. He kind of ran out of steam with that story.

          • Grumpy Girl

            No no, I haven’t seen it either. Musical theater is something i had to give up with marriage and kids, because they have a negative level of appreciation for it that just sucks the fun out of it for me now.

          • bitchybitchybitchy

            Considering how much tickets are, you don’t want to spend that kind of$$$ if your companions don’t enjoy.

    • Violina23

      Definitely in the cable pile for me. My thoughts on the preview ranged from “DAMN, that’s good casting” to “Okay, she’s sufficiently creepy, that’s pretty awesome”, but I couldn’t imagine being able to sustain that feeling for 2 hours.

      My 4YO has seen the previews and has been asking about it, so we started reading the books based on the original Disney movie and we actually watched the movie for the first time together today!

      Thanks for the review, Uncles. You guys have a way with words, I hope you keep this up for future movies you see!

    • OffToSeeHim

      Do you think, though, that “Huntsman” failed because Kristin Stewart just isn’t up to the task of emoting her way through a powerful, allegorical female-driven story? Angelina Jolie eats that stuff for breakfast.

      • MilaXX

        I think it was a combination of things. I think Charlize went balls to the wall almost camp and then Kristen’s acting just wasn’t up to snuff. It made the film feel uneven like they thought they were in 2 different films.

  • MK03

    Oh, goddamn it. The fun of Maleficent is that she’s just plain evil. I don’t want a “poor misunderstood woman who really likes children after all” villain. Can’t villains just be villains without having a Freudian excuse for everything??

    • bitchybitchybitchy

      As Ben Kingsley or Mark Strong murmurs in the new series of Jaguar ads, sometimes it’s good to be bad-and we viewers don’t want any wussy complications-just give us our viliains!

    • FrigidDiva

      That’s exactly how I feel. I think it’s interesting that we’ve gone from a hero centric view in movies and literature to a misnderstood villain centric view. I’m over making the villains into someone sympathetic, I just want them to be bad. I actually choose my favorite Disney films based on the villains: Maleficent
      and Ursula from the Little Mermaid. I hope we don’t get a reviosionist tale on that one.

  • Nonmercisansfacon

    I found Maleficent to be part of the (sometimes unfortunate) trend to recast evil women in literature and movies as victims of men which imo is itself a depowering dynamic. Where is the subversion in a rehash of the ‘hell has no fury like a scorned woman bent on revenge’ plot? Why couldn’t she have been a villain on her own right, hungry for power, willing to trample everything in her path to get it? A female equivalent of Loki who, while you can sometimes sympathize with him, you can never forget is a megalomaniac. Or in Margaret Atwood’s words:
    “… were men to get all the juicy parts? Literature cannot do without bad behaviour, but was all the bad behaviour to be reserved for men? Was it to be all Iago and Mephistopheles, and were Jezebel and Medea and Medusa and Delilah and Regan and Goneril and spotty-handed Lady Macbeth and Rider Haggard’s powerful superfemme fatale in She, and Tony Morrison’s mean Sula, to be banished from view? I hope not. Women characters, arise! Take back the night! ”

    Give us more Bellatrix Hollywood. Crazy, cruel, maniacal, dangerous, mesmerizing Bellatrix who doesn’t need a past history of childhood trauma or romantic betrayal to be batshit crazy and evil!

    • bitchybitchybitchy

      You mentioned She, one of my alltime guilty pleasure movies-I love that version with Ursula Andress in the lead role-eternally gorgeous, imperious and cruel.

      • MilaXX

        I saw the Ursula Andress version a long time ago. IIRC Tom Baker in his post Doctor Who years made a horrible US version with Rosanne Barr. Bad doesn’t even being to describe it.

        • bitchybitchybitchy

          That does sound bad. I don’t know whether the actor who was Ursula’s long lost lover could act his way out of a paper bag, but the two of them were very, very pretty together.

  • CommentsByKatie

    LOVE your review. You guys are so skilled at this sort of thing (and everything else.) I hope we get more reviews from from you! Go uncles!

  • NMMagpie

    That’s one thing I love about Shakespeare; not a lot of back story for most of the characters. If your character is bad, you are just bad. Much simpler. When we try to humanize the dark characters, it never really goes anywhere.

    The only revisionist tale worth its salt is: The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf.

    Hands down the BEST.

    • ShaoLinKitten

      I dunno… plenty of the “bad guys” in Shakespeare have back story. All the tragic heroes who do villainous things have reasons (Othello, Macbeth, Titus, etc). Even characters like Caliban and Tybalt have their reasons. It’s only Iago who was motiveless, probably by design. What Shakespeare and fairy tales do have in common is that everyone gets their comeuppance. The social order is restored, by hook or by crook.

    • Beardslee

      “Think of it as a hamburger just sitting there.” A great story. I also highly recommend “The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig” by Helen Oxenbury.

  • largishbearishAtlish

    I still have no desire to see this…

  • Synnae

    I may not pay to see this in the cinema but I will certainly order it once available on my movie channel. Why? Because how can you not watch a movie whose costumes are “the stratosphere of drag”

  • JaCory Deon

    Say what you will about that Snow White & The Huntsman but at least the evil queen (Theron) stayed a bitch all the way up to the end of the film. Unfortunately that film didn’t know if it wanted to be about her (the queen) or that dreadful “actress” (Stewart), so you got something that didn’t work. If only the story/writing of these tales lived up to what the costume department and actresses are doing. I find Jolie fascinating to look at in this but the villains had more bite in the old Disney versions of these stories. Fairy tales in the tradition of the Brothers Grimm are dark, grotesque affairs where cruelty is common but somehow they work because there isn’t this need to sentimentalize things…Disney on the whole treats children as less sophisticated and capable than they actually are, hence these cheap stories they make which somehow always feel forced and off. IMHO, Neil Jordan is one of the few whose gotten it right (in his film “Company of Wolves” I think it’s called).

    • tallgirl1204

      Oh , I loved In Company of Wolves… I still ruminate on it from time to time. The idea of wolf as metaphor for so many things…

  • GroovyKitty

    “The Tolkienization of Disney” – this is spot on, but also kind of hilarious, because the actual Tolkien wasn’t having any of this crap. His whole intent was to create a mythology in which the characters were more archetypes than people and morality was very black and white. “Darkness and angst” only existed in his work to the extent that they could be swept away/defeated by the light. But there is a definitely a modern trend that backlashes against simplicity in any sort of fantasy story, and this more often than not results in modern fantasy that is very dark and grim, and pains are taken not to make anyone really “bad” or “good.” I think that’s great if you are going for something more realistic, but I think simplicity also works very well in fantasy because it doesn’t HAVE to be realistic.

    I will probably see this movie eventually, since Sleeping Beauty was one of my favorite movies as a child. I loved everything about it. Maleficent scared the crap out of me, and I loved that too. She was NO JOKE and I think the type of story they set up here takes a lot of the wind out of her sails, but maybe if I pretend like this is actually a different story about a different lady I will enjoy it more. Or maybe I will just track down the original Sleeping Beauty and watch it a bunch of times.

    • tallgirl1204

      Tolkien also built a world worth saving. The movies give you battle after battle but never show what it is that anyone would be so desperate to save – or destroy.

    • Cautia

      Hmmm. Themes of corruption are threaded throughout Lord of the Rings. The One Ring was portrayed as something that anyone could be corrupted by. Anyone who thought they could wield it without it corrupting and betraying them was portrayed as a utter fool – heck, even Galadriel realized she wasn’t immune. If LotR was meant to be black-and-white, then which was Boromir? Gollum was originally a hobbit-like guy who was by no means evil – and throughout the book was never pure evil, but actually quite sympathetic a lot of the time.

      The nine ringwraiths were formerly men who became evil. Humankind was spoken of as the weakest of all races. Much of, if not most of, the bad things that happen in the Lord of the Rings are the result not just of Pure Evil having its way, but of people and other races making a lot of Very Big Mistakes. That’s actually a very important aspect of Lord of the Rings. Aragorn represents the strength of men, not because he’s pure good, but because, in the end, he has the faith and the willpower to remain true. In fact the very reason he resists accepting his kingship for so long is because he is aware of the great burden of remaining strong, that it’s not easy because he can’t assume that his ‘goodness’ is a given – something he’s reminded of everyday by remembering the weaknesses of his own ancestors.
      So yeah I dunno, I’m not sure I can agree with you. Sure, Lord of the Rings is about Good vs Evil – but the malleable morality of people is actually one of the most central themes in the book.

      • GroovyKitty

        Oh I totally agree that morality can shift, through corruption or redemption in Tolkien’s tales. What I meant by black and white is that the actions one takes are either good or evil. There is no justification for bad acts, even if there is an explanation. In Tolkien’s world, you can’t explain away a person’s evil actions by going into some tortured backstory, because the reason doesn’t make an act of evil any less evil. Revenge is not a justification, nor is prior injustice. This is why Frodo does not kill Saruman and Wormtongue in the Scouring of the Shire, but turns them away, and even attempts to try to redeem Wormtongue. Because even with all they have done, to murder them in revenge would still be evil (in Tolkien’s view). That’s why “The Tolkienization of Disney” is a funny concept to me. It’s completely true that recent Disney live action movies have attempted to piggyback on the success of the Lord of the Rings films by adding in epic battles and tons of CGI to create lush fantasy worlds, but Tolkien himself wouldn’t have cared for any of it. They idea of taking a simple piece of folklore and making it darker and more complex, plus introducing moral relativism to a story of simple good and evil is pretty much the opposite of what Tolkien was all about.

  • siriuslover

    I am not a huge Angelina fan, but when my kids and I saw previews of this film in the movie theatre, I was like, “I totally have to see this film.” And to be honest, your review has me still wanting to see it. I love your review is honest and direct with the flaws and with possible motivations to go see the film. It is so awesome that you guys are doing reviews!

  • Of course Aurora got paper-thin characterization. Maleficent got paper-thin characterization in Aurora’s movie. It’s not her story. And I for one love these “modern” takes on the fairy-tales, for they teach children one of the most important lessons of all: that true evil can (and does) exist inside yourself.

  • FridaStaire

    Now rape was actually part for he original Sleeping Beauty story – the Aurora character was asleep and couldn’t be roused by a passing king, so he raped her, and she woke nine months later in child birth. My 12 year old taught me this!

  • fiddlecub

    To add (with very mild spoilers ahead):

    As much as I love seeing women leading the way in this film, the fact that our empathy for the primary character arises primarily from a pseudo-rape and from her motherly characteristics; the fact that her foil is barely a character at all, characterized solely as pretty, and that Disney *still* insists on implying she must get her Prince Charming; and the fact the three other lead females are awful comic relief; I don’t see Maleficent quite as the feminist manifesto a lot of others might. I am reminded a lot of Frozen, which I also thought was far less feminist than it was characterized as. I am so grateful that a major, female-led movie can find a mainstream audience, but I still worry that the messages aren’t changing much.

    • OffToSeeHim

      I can’t even with Frozen. There are two male characters in the story (if you don’t count the snowman) and the lead falls in love with both of them, one right after the other. WTF? That’s a feminist movie? Give me Elsa any day – no love story *at all* and still the best and most interesting character Disney’s done in 25 years.

      • semirose

        Seriously! I mean I love that the true love is sisterly love but other than that? No thanks.

  • MilaXX

    Looks like I got this one wrong. baker did a film called. Life and Loves of a She Devil. It was still awful, but a different movie.

  • Melissa

    Thanks for the review. Sounds like I’ll be skipping this one, but I look forward to seeing many gifs of Angie vamping.

  • Chevalle

    I was actually really hoping they would go less Broadway’s Wicked and more Maguire’s Wicked with this. I was hoping that Maleficent would actually turn much more ruthless than she ended up being. Her name means “noble evil” for goodness’ sake. I wanted Maleficent to turn INTO the villainess Disney created, not have this “misunderstood, being good from the shadows” sort of schtick. Wah wah.

    Watch out, next it’s going to be Ursula: A Poor Unfortunate (Misunderstood) Soul

    ETA: super disappointed that Jolie didn’t turn into a dragon.

    • gabbilevy

      It was too much to hope that a Disney movie (or, for that matter, a big jazz-hands Broadway musical) would have had the guts to follow through on the ending without tying everything off into a neat bow. While I liked that this movie allowed Maleficent to be both good and evil, as opposed to pure evil without motivation, she would never have been allowed to stay broken or angry. Can you imagine if they’d let her truly descend into madness and let her die (rather than turning King Stefan into a raging lunatic).

      And YES I wish she’d become the dragon.

    • OffToSeeHim

      Now see, THAT’S a spoiler! She didn’t turn into a *dragon*?? Wasn’t that kind of the whole *point* of Malificent? That was the coolest thing she DID!

  • Laylalola

    It’s so strange that we live in a time when our movies want to humanize fictional villains but in real life our media is constantly seeking to demonize and erase all humanity from even just those with opposing views.

  • katiessh

    Now I don’t know what to feel, because i LOVE wicked (I always thought dorothy was a such a bitch, stealing a dead woman’s shoes) but this already feels tired.

  • Tanya Wade

    I want to thank you guys for this review. I have long held the 1959 Sleeping Beauty as my favorite Disney, for the use of color scheme alone. It really is something that looks like nothing else I’ve ever seen in animation. And I love Maleficent. Just love her. There’s no warm and fuzzy anywhere inside this woman (I mean, even Ursula was a little cuddly, albeit in a Divine way). So to see the story twisted around to make her secretly good – I’m sorry, I just can’t. I really want to see the costume design though, so I’m torn. I think I may have to wait this one out.

    • SewingSiren

      Right . Everyone is not good. Darth Vader is not good damn it.

    • bluefish

      My fav. Disney too for the reasons you mention — And the gorgeous, drop dead sexy Maleficent!

  • NinjaCate


    Saw it last week. I enjoyed it, but I’ve been known to enjoy quite a lot of nonsense. The movie was pretty to look at, but Angie was far and away the movie’s saving grace. I really do wish she’d had more badass moments because they were SO MUCH FUN. A actually really liked the whole maternal love/true love’s kiss subversion, just because I feel like we need more of that, but I think it’s kind of undermined by as you say, forcing maternity on a character who’s meant to be evil through and through. Got to say though that the costumes were AMAZE. And even though I knew the cheeks were prosthetic I sat in awe of them the whole time. Cheeks to cut GLASS bitches! All in all, it was okay. I’m glad I saw it, but I wouldn’t see it again.

  • Sarah Frances Hardy

    Visually stunning, but I wanted it to be darker–especially the ending. It would have been more heart wrenching and much, much stronger SPOILER ALERT … if they’d killed Maleficent in the end.

  • KiP07

    Thanks for your comments about the production design! One of the things I love about the animated Sleeping Beauty is that it basically looks like a 1950s version of a medieval manuscript. In particular the original scene where Aurora is hypnotized by the fireplace has really great architectural details. I was a bit sad that this movie’s world looks so Avatar-ish (though I guess that’s expected given the director). This is such a tough one for me because this movie could have been pretty cool, but instead it kind of felt and looked like many other recent movies.

    • bluefish

      Love the observation that the original Disney looks like a 1950s version of medieval manuscript. True!

      • KiP07

        Thanks! It really is too bad Disney didn’t want to bring back the mid-century medieval look!

  • SewingSiren

    Well I’ll probably go see it anyway. My oldest just finished writing her senior paper on the subject of fairytales. So it is relevant. Too bad she couldn’t use your write up as a reference. The story justifying Maleficent’s future evil sounds a bit weak. But it’s just a movie. so theres that. The novel Wicked is really very good and nuanced, as is Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (Cinderella take off). I was hoping for something along those lines, but I don’t suppose it could be marketed as a kids film in that case.

  • Anne

    One of the best things about Maleficent as a villain in the original movie is that we have no idea why she is the way she is. Characters who are evil for what seems like no particular reason are scarier than villains we can understand, I think–the fact that Maleficent spends sixteen years hunting down Aurora for no reason other than not being invited to her royal christening is kind of terrifying. I wouldn’t mind seeing this movie for curiosity’s sake, but Maleficent is a character I’ve never felt the need to learn more about.

    • KingCrazy

      I’m not sure if you’re serious or not, but Maleficent didn’t hunt down Aurora for 16 years because of not being invited to the royal christening.

      • Anne

        But isn’t that why she curses her at the beginning? I don’t remember as well as I thought…is there more of an explanation? Was she supposed to be queen, like Ursula?

        • KingCrazy

          She says she’s upset she didn’t get an invitation, but it’s extremely tongue-in-cheek. She curses Aurora as revenge against her father, for clipping her wings and for betraying her. Aurora represents everything she lost. At least in this version!

          I haven’t watched the cartoon in years, so I’m of no help there. I remember Maleficent saying something about an invitation, but they never explored it there really. That’s what this film did. I really really enjoyed it.

          • Anne

            Oh, okay, I see. I haven’t seen this film, but the reason they needed to make it (or felt they needed to make it) was probably because in the Disney version she really has no motivation apart from being evil. We don’t know who she is or where she came from or why she’s evil.

  • “Classic old fairy tales were shockingly dark, so the basic idea behind the darkening and deepening concept of this film might’ve worked” – Yeah, the best fairy tale retellings pull the preexisting darkness out. Hans Christian Anderson has a lot of weird subtext too.

  • bluefish

    I think Angie should just own and dress like Maley all the time! Amazing costumes and fabulous make-up — killer manicure too.

  • Joey Melliza

    excruciatingly ugly… no amount of cheekbones or high drag fierceness could save this sinking ship…i hope they dont throw a life vest to the script writers

  • AndieJay

    No. No no no. Here’s what I got out of it. Maleficient’s power was stolen by a man to increase his own power. I guess this could be a “paper thin rape metaphor” but it’s also a metaphor for any time someone trusts someone else, and gets used and taken. It happens in families, at work, everywhere. And in this movie it makes Maleficient bitter and angry and hateful. But as she watches Aurora grow up and sees how she learns to love what Maleficient herself used to love and care for, she lets go of her anger and goes back to love. She doesn’t really do very much that’s so very maternal, and by the time Maleficient changes, Aurora is on the bring of womanhood. I think it’s just as credible to see that the two became friends, and equals. They got rid of the evil king running the show, and now with two women in charge, the two adjacent kingdoms will do much better. I actually think we need more plots like this. Many, many more. It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. And sadly, that is still a rare thing.

    • Raspberry2012

      I love your take on it!

      • AndieJay

        Thank you!

  • duckgirlie

    “because apparently, these are the only ways you can make a female character more interesting: break her heart, rape her, and make sure she loves children by the time its all over”

    this was the thing that massively stuck out for me – I’m SO OVER the fundamental experience in a powerful woman’s life being one of these things. I love the original film – it’s my favourite disney by a mile – and I was really disappointed in this. Especially because I think that of all the early Disney films, Sleeping Beauty is actually the most feminist – very much focused on female characters working together to protect aurora from danger. I was really disappointed by what they did with the other three fairies as well. Aside from inexplicably changing their names, they removed everything sensible, interesting and useful from those three, just to play up the maternal role for Maleficent.

  • PeaceBang

    IT WAS EVERYTHING. Because I’ve been obsessed with Maleficent since I was six, and I cannot believe this fulfilled my expectations. Also: hottest Disney animal sidekick ever.

  • Annistella

    For me, the modern day master of fairytales is Roald Dahl. He did not seek to offer motivations or complex psychological theories as to why a character was selfish or mean or greedy, rather our hero/heroine is taught to identify harmful characters and navigate them without compromising themselves to traverse a treacherous landscape and make it to adulthood. I must also add that Freud never sought to justify behavior that is personally or socially harmful, rather he believed that by understanding one is released from their hold, and both positive and negative aspects of personality will be harmoniously balanced so the bearer experiences less distress. The ‘talking cure’ offers nothing more than acceptance of self and others, not justification. Or as Roald Dahl wrote so ominously, when Charlie Bucket worriedly asks Willie Wonka about his ejected charges from the chocolate factory “will they change Mr Wonka?”, Wonka sagely replies “No Charlie. But they will be a little wiser”.

  • Vee

    I loved it, but I love Disney films. I enjoy some light fantasy, reality is enough on a day to day basis. This is a first time director, but he is a Oscar winning production designer if I read correctly. I loved the set and didn’t expect to see much from Elle, this was Angie’s movie through and through. It was fun, so I’ll take it.

  • Alyssa

    I loved it, but I tend to love most Disney movies. But more importantly for me, my almost-6-year-old daughter loved it. She felt so bad for what happened to Maleficent, and understood why she was angry and turned mean. She then was so excited to see the relationship develop between Aurora and Maleficent, and to see love and forgiveness between them. She walked out telling me the “morals” from the story, and that is what made me a fan. To see Disney creating movies that give better morals than “meet someone, fall immediately in love, live happily ever after” is refreshing. Yes, there is still some room for improvement on that aspect. As far as my thoughts on the movie: Angelina was divine in the role, the costuming was as you said amazing, the three other fairies were downright annoying, and I surprisingly love Lana Del Ray’s version of Once Upon a Dream.

    • Raspberry2012

      Exactly – I love the original, it’s my favorite Disney movie. But I loved the fresh take in this version too!

  • FeistyKat

    I haven’t seen (and I want to so I’m trying hard to avoid reading spoilers and only lightly skimmed your review and the comments not at all.) it but I wanted to point out that fairy tales were originally for adults…very similar to the modern horror flicks. It is only relatively recently that they were sanitized for children.

  • fursa_saida

    Maleficent is extremely important to me, so I’ve been nervous about this from the get go. Everything I’m hearing suggests that if I see this movie, it’ll break my heart.

    Maleficent already had agency and power. Everything that happens in the original movie happens because of her, and 90% of the characters’ decisions are in reaction to her. And I always loved that she didn’t have a clear, relatable reason–she’s just a total bitch, AND IT’S GREAT. That the movie felt the need to rape her (metaphorically, I know); that it’s yet another case of Hollywood believing that the only interesting women are the victimized and the only ones justified in their ~evil are those with something to avenge–I just can’t. Not with Maleficent. SHE DOESN’T EVEN TURN INTO A DRAGON, I MEAN, WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT.

    Ironically, it’s weirdly appropriate to introduce something rapey in an iteration of the Sleeping Beauty myth, but as the post says, this is based on the Disney version. The story is and always has been about the terror of reaching sexual maturity, and in the older version, the rape of Sleeping Beauty herself fits into that set of meanings. But it’s real fucked up and I am 100% fine with current versions losing it.

    Glad to hear Maleficent is appropriately drag-fabulous. I mean, she swans around in a cape referring to herself as “pure evil” and screaming, “IMBECILES!” so it was always necessary.

  • fursa_saida

    Right! So many of them are about the general terrors of being alive in times of change (i.e. reaching sexual maturity, getting married, childbirth). I read a wonderful interpretation of Sleeping Beauty that made it a kind of allegory for eating disorders (some girls develop anorexia as a way of stopping their bodies from developing further, eternal sleep –> arrested development, etc). Of course that’s not what the story was originally about, but it’s related through the terror of what your changing body means. All the basic struggles of life are to be found in fairy tales, if we look for them.

  • Raspberry2012

    I saw it yesterday and just loved it. I mean don’t get me wrong – I love the original, too, but I loved this as well. The twist on the ending didn’t bother me, I like seeing the same story told a different way with a different outcome just for shits and giggles, you know? I also loved both “The Wizard of Oz” and “Wicked” – there’s nothing wrong with a new take on an old character.

  • Imasewsure

    “Because apparently, these are the only ways you can make a female
    character more interesting: break her heart, rape her, and make sure she
    loves children by the time its all over.” THIS!!!

  • Imasewsure

    I might see this just to see Angie chew the scenery but I will continue to ask very little of the story… just go in for the fun visuals (like with Godzilla) but with the added fashionista gasps as well

  • LadyVimes

    Can I get in on those cheekbone prosthetics? Because those are AWESOME.

  • FinnSteve

    Can I humbly request more TLo movie reviews in the future?

  • elirt

    This review reminds me of Meryl Streep in Julia & Julie. She was so amazing at Julia Child that it was a shame we got so little of it when it really should have been the centerpiece. Sounds like Maleficent needed a more mature version to let Angelina really live the role.

  • Please pardon the pedantry, but fairy tales were originally written for adults and only relegated to children’s tales during the Victorian era.

    Oh, and the original Sleeping Beauty? She wasn’t woken by a kiss but by giving birth to twins because apparently Prince Charming was a closet necrophiliac.

  • DesertDweller79

    What a shame. It would have been amazing if they had just told the story from the perspective of the 1959’s version of Maleficent. Why does an Evil Fairy need more motivation than power? That is ridiculous. How does it make her a more interesting character if she’s raped? Bah!

  • Leigh Pennebaker

    Have you guys read Women Who Run With The Wolves? I think you’d dig it.

  • Citagaze

    I’ll always hold “The 10th Kingdom” as the benchmark for redoing fairy tales in a fascinating, wonderful, and heartbreaking way.

  • SatelliteAlice

    I LOVE the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty and when I was young I watched it so much that I broke the tape. There were things about this movie that made me smile but there were also a few things that made me cringe and wonder what Disney was trying to achieve. I know I am probably not the majority being a giant nerd for Sleeping Beauty but I hated and I do mean genuinely hated that they changed how she woke up. I don’t want to give spoilers if people want to go see it so I won’t say who it was or why but you could have made her completely sympathetic without adding that nonsense and why in the world did they change the good fairies’ names? What in the heck was the point of that? Everyone else got to keep their names and Thistlewit is not any more believable than Fauna is it? I don’t think so. I was so excited to see what they did with her backstory and there were times when I was just so happy with the way scenes were going but yeah… not a favorite like I thought it would be.

  • VicksieDo

    Rape? πŸ™

  • Sheenathepunk

    Is it a bit simplistic? Yes. Does it include super-heroism and visual effects to appeal to the current generation? Yes. However, stories should never be underestimated (read Jerome Bruner). If there had been movies like this when I was a young girl, I might not have spent 30 years thinking there was something wrong with me because I wanted my own sword and horse, rather than be kissed awake by a prince.

  • swanpride

    I doubt that anyone who truly likes the original movie can be anything but insulting by this piece of sh…. Honestly, I never hated a movie as much as this one. It is an insult to the movie which is my favourite of all Disney movies. It ruins not only the greatest of Disney Villains, but also three really great characters. The three fairies were the true heroines of the original movie, and it is downright aggrevating what they did to them. It’s not like the movie world is full of old, overweight heroines.