There are good fairies and there are bad fairies. But is it really horns and pale skin that make a fairy bad?
“Of course not,” you might say. And you would be right. That’s why Disney, in another film in a long line of new takes on their classic fairy tales, decided to tackle the character of Maleficent. What could possibly make a fairy, a creature that is supposed to be so ingrained in happiness and joy, curse an innocent girl to fall asleep and never wake up? How could you turn someone so joyful into a villain so bitter? Betrayal, as it turns out. Maleficent is young when the film first starts, flying around the fairy kingdom with her gorgeous brown wings, full of faith and curiosity. When a young boy comes to the kingdom and steals something, she’s filled not with anger or vengeance, but with mercy. She forgives the boy, and even befriends him. They have a love-filled relationship—for a time. Then, when they’ve both grown up and Maleficent’s well-being interferes with his own aspirations to be king, it’s a different story. She betrays him, and Maleficent looks to his innocent daughter to wreak revenge on the back-stabbing Stefan. But thankfully, the movie feels no compulsion to stick to the original story.
That can be frustrating with certain adaptations, but when it comes to this story, it’s a refreshing approach. It keeps the story fresh and unpredictable, allowing you to become emotionally attached to the story instead of sitting back with your arms crossed, already knowing how the story ends. If you think this one ends the same way that Sleeping Beauty does, you’ll be woefully mistaken. Instead of taking on a classic good versus evil narrative, Maleficent opts for a more exploratory look at the characters.
It does a good job explaining why Maleficent would be filled with so much wrath towards an innocent child, and proceeds to give a singular message that is both worthwhile and Biblical: even the most vile of us can change. In scriptural terms, we dare not say that without a caveat: with the Lord’s help. Ephesians 3 makes that clear, in Paul’s prayer referencing the power of God that works within us (Eph. 3:20). The film offers no such addendum, but still acts as an encouraging example, giving the vile hope of change, which is one of the most powerful aspects of the gospel message.But even a film with a powerful and scriptural message must come with quality in order to be effective.
Sadly, Maleficent offers no such combination. Angelina Jolie is a chillingly good Maleficent and Elle Fanning manages to do well as Aurora, but the film as a whole relies on stilted dialogue, choppy writing, and a plot that lacks a clear crescendo and settles for a most underwhelming conclusion. To praise this film for its great message is to praise a child for dumping sugar on liver. Sugar’s great, but nobody wants sugar-coated liver.
In the end, the film has some great concepts and a good lead, but fails to even fully flesh out the story, much less produce a fulfilling narrative. It’s a Redbox rent at best, and then only if retellings of fairytales fascinate you.