[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope:

A very different take on the tale of Sleeping Beauty

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

May 30, 2014 -- The tale of Sleeping Beauty is the basis for this live-action adaptation in which the villain of the traditional tale becomes the hero and environmentalism trumps technology. Magic trumps civilization. Even the traditional magic of “true love's kiss” scene is re-imagined in this Walt Disney film.

The basic story is very similar to “Sleeping Beauty” or “Little Briar Rose” (a Grimms Fairy Tale) in that there is a beautiful princess (played by Elle Fanning) a curse of sleep and a handsome prince (played by Brenton Thwaites). But in this story, the evil witch who puts the sleeping spell on the princess turns out to be a not-really-evil main character in a complex story of love and betrayal involving the royal family.

Maleficent (played by Angelina Jolie) is the queen fairy of the Moors, enchanted marshlands which border a human kingdom. When the human forces, led by the king, try to invade the Moors, Maleficent leads her army against them and defeats the king. The king, who is humiliated, vows to hand over his kingdom to anyone who kills Maleficent.

An ambitious young man, Stefan, enters the Moors to kill Maleficent, whom he had befriended and loved years before. He betrays Maleficent with a sleeping potion, but cannot bring himself to kill her. Instead, he cuts off her magnificent wings and presents them to the king as proof of her death. Stefan becomes king and Maleficent plots her revenge.

When Maleficent learns that a daughter, Aurora, has been born to King Stefan, she shows up at the christening and places a curse on the child, that when she reaches the age of 16 she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into an eternal sleep. The spell can only be broken with true love's kiss.

As the child grows, Maleficent watches over her, and her heart is captured by the beautiful, kind child. Aurora begins to call Maleficent her “fairy godmother.” Maleficent grows to love the child and tries to lift the curse she put on Aurora, but the curse is too powerful, and cannot be lifted. Meanwhile Stefan becomes obsessed with trying to kill Maleficent and lift the curse. He becomes as haunted, bitter and twisted in his quest for vengeance as was the king before him.

Angelina Jolie is magnificent as Maleficent, a powerful, brooding character with deeply conflicted emotions. Her constant companion is a raven, who sometimes becomes a man, and other creatures, at Maleficent's whim, Diaval (Sam Riley of “Control”). Diaval becomes a confidant of Maleficent and sometimes acts as her conscience. He watches over Aurora and also keeps watch on Maleficent's enemies. Diaval's performance is complex and subtle, as is Diaval's relationship to Aurora and Maleficent. He is one of the three main characters in this movie, along with Maleficent and Aurora.

There are three other characters who have a lot of screen time, three pixies who raise Aurora in a remote forest cabin near the Moors. The three are Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”) Flittle (Lesley Manville) and Thistletwit (Juno Temple). These three characters are supposed to provide some comic relief, but they don't quite fit the bill. They are so incompetent at raising Aurora that Maleficent has to step in and help out. The way these characters are handled in this story is a drawback. They are neither as funny as they should be and they are not credible as foster parents for Aurora, either. These characters are as weakly written as Maleficent is powerfully written. Despite this weakness, this movie is entertaining because of its other strengths. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2014 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)