Maleficent is the next installment in Walt Disney Pictures’ digital era live-action fairy tale movie series, which began with Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and continued to enjoy success (though not as much $ucce$$) with Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful earlier this year. However, the Mouse House’s Sleeping Beauty film doesn’t have an A-list director; it’s banking on the name of its leading lady, Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie.
Jolie stars as the eponymous malevolent fairy in the film, which introduces us to Maleficent as a teenager (played by Kick-Ass 2 costar Ella Purnell) and examines her experiences growing up. That includes, the events that hardened her heart and drove her to curse the innocent Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning), as retribution for the wrongful acts that she had suffered over the years.
Basically, Maleficent is Disney’s revisionist take on the classic Sleeping Beauty story, as told from the perspective of its villainess; it’s what Wicked is to The Wizard of Oz. The screenplay was penned by Linda Woolverton – writer of Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast, Mulan and Burton’s Alice retelling – with additional material provided by John Lee Hancock (co-writer of Snow White and the Huntsman and director of Saving Mr. Banks).
Maleficent is the directorial debut for Oscar-winning production designer and visual effects artist, Robert Stromberg (Avatar, Alice in Wonderland). Indeed, the film’s teaser trailer footage is as lush and gorgeously dark as one might imagine, based on its director’s background. Moreover, the scenery appears to be a healthy blend of practical sets and stylized digital elements, creating the impression of a world that is all too real and fantastical at once.
Based on what little is shown here, Jolie seems to be channeling the vocal mannerisms of Eleanor Audley, who voiced Maleficent in Disney’s animated Sleeping Beauty feature; a fine decision, if that’s the case. Similarly, Fanning looks to be wise casting too, as far as her playing a princess for the 21st-century (read: more grounded version of Aurora). And this teaser doesn’t even feature the other members of the film’s reputable cast, which includes Sharlto Copley (Oldboy), Miranda Richardson (Harry Potter), Imelda Staunton (Another Year), Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who) and Juno Temple (Horns).
Of course, whether Maleficent will have the narrative substance to go along with the eye candy and excellent cast, is another matter. Painting villains in a more sympathetic light is in fashion right now, as the popularity of characters such as Loki in the Thor movies is a testament to. There’s certainly potential for Jolie’s evil fairy to wind up being a compelling Shakespearean tragedy case study, but as always we’ll have to wait and see…
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.