Maleficent has long been my favourite baddie. In Disney’s 1959 classic kids movie Sleeping Beauty, the self-proclaimed Mistress of All Evil is deliciously despicable, and her curved horns lent her a chilling other-worldly edge. I am a massive fan of dark fantasy fiction, and cannot begin to describe how excited I was when I found out Disney were planning a Maleficent movie, an action-packed retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story from the villain’s perspective.
After waiting impatiently for nearly three years, this week I finally got to see the world through Maleficent’s eyes as one of the very lucky movie reviewers invited to the pre-release screening of the Maleficent movie in London’s Leicester Square.
The big question I know you’re all asking… does the Maleficent movie live up to expectations?
Oh yes indeed, and surpassed them. I was expecting something along the lines of Mirror Mirror – a cute romantic adventure film peppered with humour and some quirky little twists. Instead, the Maleficent movie is more akin to Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, complete with rousing music, incredible battle scenes, magical creatures galore, stunning cinematography and brilliant storytelling.
As you would expect, Disney sets the scene by introducing us to the enchanted kingdom – only there is an interesting visual twist even in the first minute or two of the film. Maleficent’s realm is lush and sparkling and more like Pixie Hollow than what you’d expect for a baddie, while the kingdom and the castle on the hill feels dark and forbidding. Maleficent herself is a fairy with a heart of gold, living happily among the other magical creatures in the beautiful moors at the edge of the kingdom.
In a quite sickening twist, she suffers the most horrible betrayal imaginable. In the audience, myself and everyone around me were open-mouthed, hands drawn up to their faces in pain and outrage on Maleficent’s behalf. Angelina Jolie more than earned her fee in this single, unbelievably intense minute of film, her horror so real that you can’t believe for a second that she is acting.
Maleficent plummets into despair, builds walls around her once-pure heart, and creates physical walls around her once-bright enchanted moors. Day after day, her pain chips away at her, and begins to take shape as a fiery, resentful anger… and she becomes the classic Disney villain we love to hate.
Enter Sleeping Beauty… when this delightful little cherub is christened, three fairies go along to the celebration to bestow their good wishes.
They gift her with beauty, grace and love, and all is going well until Maleficent makes her entrance. Here she swoops into the castle in a fit of embittered rage, gate-crashing the Christening and cursing the tiny princess.
This is the bit where you think you know the story… but instead of heading safely into Disney Princess territory, the film takes some clever, action-packed and often humorous twists as Maleficent struggles to live with the consequences of her curse, including some moments that will almost definitely bring a tear to your eye.
I won’t spoil it for you by telling you what happens next, but yes, the Maleficent movie is absolutely one worth seeing. In fact I’ll happily go see it again.
It looks a bit scary – are my kids too young?
Officially the Maleficent movie is rated PG and supposedly fine for ages 7+…. but a mum, there is absolutely no way I would bring my 7 year old to see it. If your child has older siblings and has been desensitised to battle scenes and quite terrifying beasts coming at them on a huge cinema screen, then go ahead, but most of the 7 year olds I know would have fled the cinema about five minutes into the film.
Ten year olds will really enjoy it, and with the clever twists it’s got enough depth for teens and adults. Think The Lord of the Rings but 10% tamer and without the blood.