Maleficent is studio-mandated fan fiction, a Sleeping Beauty remix with sumptuous visuals that never really provides a good reason for existing. I’ll grant that it’s the first competent execution of the post-300 “artificial live-action” aesthetic, but the narrative adjustments to the classic tale – a sympathetic villain, an excoriation of dictatorial hierarchies and a hefty dose of action (as though your Disney DVDs inspired your older brother’s D&D campaign) – only serve to bring it closer to the conventions of modern children’s cinema. Even the film’s twist on “true love” is blatantly cribbed from Frozen.
In the title role is Angelina Jolie, enveloped by botox-taut elfin features and prominent arched cheekbones. She’s not so much providing performance here as presence; aside from a brief (intentional?) David Bowie impersonation, she rages, glowers and occasionally allows a single tear to well. The Wickedly unoriginal choice to tell the story from Maleficent’s perspective never fully justifies itself; she’s too often left an observer rather than an agent of change in her own story.
Maleficent isn’t a bad film. It’s just unnecessary, especially as a children’s film with an (admittedly excessive) M-rating. Worth watching if you just need more Sleeping Beauty in your life, I suppose.