So I went to see “Maleficent” last night. Definitely a firm favourite already. I can’t wait to get this in my DVD collection. The idyllic scenery is breath-taking, Ange is on fire as the eponymous hero and/or villain while the story is captivating. The nuts and bolts of the story as we know it are there, but rearranged quite darkly. The characters that we expect to be “good” find themselves ferreting about in the shadows, while the “villain” is twisted into a much more favourable light, as you will see.
I’ll just say this now. While I’m not a fan of spoilers, I fear that there may be some lurking below. So, if you haven’t seen this film yet and you don’t want to inadvertently find out any crucial info that may ruin your enjoyment of the film, I wouldn’t risk it.
Anyone still with me?
I’ll take that as a yes…
Moving on. I do enjoy a retelling of a classic tale (hence my all consuming obsession with Once Upon a Time), because it allows the audience to delve that little deeper into the world of the story. Classic fairy tales can sometimes be seen as a little outdated with regards to morals and ideals, particularly with regards to a woman’s place in the world. But by retelling these tales and putting a modern spin on it, we still get to keep the characters and the stories that we know and love while experiencing them from a different perspective and learning something new about the world that we thought we already knew.
(SPOILER ahead) One of the most important messages in “Maleficent” as a retelling of “Sleeping Beauty”, is that the hero and the villain of the piece are not always as they seem. First impressions are powerful things, but dig a little deeper and your assumptions are probably wrong. At the end of the movie, the narrator, who turns out to be a grown up Aurora, tells us that the prophecy stating that either a hero OR a villain would unite the two lands, was wrong. She says that in the end, it was one who was both hero AND villain in the form of Maleficent, the good fairy turned bad. I found this statement particularly interesting, as we have been discussing this very thing in this week’s Write Now session – the protagonist hero with a dark side.
(More SPOILERS in this paragraph) I don’t agree with Aurora’s closing statement. I don’t think Maleficent was ever the villain at all. She was always good. She just reacted, quite understandably, in a negative way to the violation and heartbreak that she suffered at the hand of Stephen. She experienced intense pain and torture at the loss of her wings and the betrayal of her childhood sweetheart. But she does not let this pain defeat her. She powers on and takes a stand against the real villain in the piece – Stephen. Sure, some of the things she does seem a little mean. Yes, it isn’t socially normal to curse a baby on her christening day. And yes, turning birds into humans into wolves into horses into dragons to do your bidding and thereby perpetrating casual slavery does seem somewhat tyrannical, I’ll give you that. But what was the girl to do? She was heartbroken!
Throughout the film, Maleficent shows her true nature in her developing relationship with Aurora. She can’t help but shower Aurora with motherly love and in the end, it is this love that saves Aurora from the curse. I like the idea of exploring the nature of true love’s kiss. It’s an intrinsic fairy tale device and is something that has cropped up in a few movies recently – showing true love’s kiss as being something much more substantial than that between a boy and a girl who have met once before if at all. Not good messages for the young brains absorbing these stories.
In “Enchanted” (2007) Princess Giselle desperately longs for her prince to come along so that she can experience true love’s kiss. Her wish comes true when the very dashing Prince Edward gallops into her life. This film begins with a typical fairy tale happy ending; a situation that is all based on looks and chance meetings. As the film develops, Princess Giselle realises that she has nothing in common with her “true love” and she eventually finds a meaningful relationship with the right person. Happy times.
In “Frozen” (2013), true love is depicted as sisterly love, rather than the traditional romantic connotations.
Again, in “Maleficent”, the nature of true love is depicted as that deep bond between family and friends rather than random handsome boy who has just met random beautiful girl. After all, Aurora is awakened from the curse by the only person who truly loves her despite everything that they have been through. And despite the “prince” being drafted in to plant a smacker on the poor girl.
In Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” (1959) Maleficent was a pure baddy. There was not a jot of good in her. “Maleficent” 2014 has shown us that there is more to the story than we thought. Would a straight up villain save the day and undo the wrong that she has inflicted? No, no she would not. Maleficent will always from now on be a hero in my eyes. Good job, Disney folk.
In conclusion, I love this film.
PS the soundtrack for Maleficent is so beautiful.