Warning: This review spoils the story but you should read it anyway because I’m certain it’s more interesting than the actual movie. So there.
“Will you ever be able to enjoy anything again,” asked Rachelle, as we rode the train home after seeing Maleficent.
“What do you mean?”
“Will you ever be able to take off your political glasses and just enjoy something?”
The answer is no. No I won’t. Not if it’s a steaming turd like this movie anyway.
Maleficent opens up with a voiceover that asks us how well we know the story of Sleeping Beauty. Well unfortunately for me, I know it pretty damn well, which is just one of the many reasons it was impossible to enjoy this awful movie. In fact, I was a big fan of Sleeping Beauty as a child. It’s hard to say whether it or The Sword in the Stone was my favourite, but both were pretty high up there and both feature evil witches who turn themselves into dragons. Coincidence? Yeah, Probably.
From there we are launched into a back story in which we see Maleficent as a young child. She’s horribly creepy looking what with those massive horns on her head and all, and her name just screams “I am evil”, but nevertheless Maleficent is a good, kind little fairy who magically mends broken tree branches and each day cheerfully greets all the strange creatures of her realm.
One day a nasty little boy named Stefan is caught stealing a worthless pebble or something from the Land of the Moors and he’s detained by the Ents that are in this movie for some reason. They turn him over to Maleficent who makes him give it back and then, in a completely natural and in no way forced plot point, they fall in love. But it was not to be (and in case that wasn’t obvious we are treated to the narrator telling us so) and Stefan moves on to other things, and just kind of stops calling. Bastard.
So a few years go by and the king of the human kingdom decides to invade the Moors for no good reason whatsoever except that he’s an old white male and therefore corrupt and power-hungry and privileged and entitled and stuff. The invasion fails miserably after Maleficent rounds up the Ents again and drives off the king and his army. Oh yeah, and Maleficent mortally injures the king. So the king is dying now but not so fast that he doesn’t have time to wait around for one of his loyal knights or something to hunt down Maleficent and kill her. If they do he will name them as his successor! And who should be up to the task but Stefan, who has without explanation gone from orphan farm boy to servant of the king. Just go with it.
Stefan, played by some actor I don’t care about who probably didn’t read the script before signing the contract, sets out into the Moors to track down his former one true love, Maleficent, and murder her so he can become king. That’s it. That’s the only motivation he’s given. But hey, he’s a man, and men are pigs.
Once he finds her, he pretends he’s sorry for being an asshole and then proceeds to slip her a medieval roofy while they talk of memories past, and then he date rapes her. Except this is a Disney movie so he doesn’t actually rape her, he just symbolically rapes her by cutting off her wings after at the last-minute being unable to go through with his plan to murder her in cold blood. Again, he isn’t given any real motivation for doing this except for the fact that he’s a man, and as we all know men are power-hungry, rapey bastards. Who love raping. A lot.
Naturally Maleficent is pretty upset when she wakes up and finds out that the evil bastard Stefan betrayed her, and she quite understandably vows vengeance.
Are you with me so far? Because the next part is where it REALLY goes to shit.
So King Stefan and his wife who I think was the older King’s daughter are having some kind of a baby shower and three ditsy fairies from the Moors show up to bestow gifts upon the child. Why the hell they do this is anybody’s guess because it’s been established that the two kingdoms hate each other and have no contact, and they must have known what that fucker Stefan did to poor Maleficent. So we can only assume it’s because they are stupid (which they are, one of the many contradictions in this bizarre attempt at the girl-power genre). Anyway Thing One and Thing Two give baby Princess Aurora their gifts (some superficial crap) and then, dun da da da! Maleficent shows up to ruin everything!
She curses Aurora to die, yadda, yadda, yadda, you know this part already. Except you don’t, because she doesn’t curse Aurora to die, she just curses her to sleep forever. That’s inconvenient because it leaves the third ditzy good fairy who is there for no good reason with nothing to do so they just conveniently forget about her until it’s time for the trio to take Aurora away to the woods and disguise themselves as humans and raise Aurora in secret. And again, they do this for no good reason whatsoever given that they have no established relationship with the human kingdom except that they are apparently lonely spinster fairies with nothing else going on.
In a departure from the source material the three fairies are completely incompetent parents and Aurora nearly dies in their care several times. Luckily Maleficent has sent her man-crow-servant-guy-thing to discover the super-secret hide-out location and she’s able to look on from the shadows and save Aurora’s life and prevent her from dying too soon so that she may live to her sixteenth birthday and die, or at least sort of die. Sort of, almost but not really die. Of course this makes exactly zero sense, but whatever.
Eventually Aurora discovers Maleficent and confronts her, declaring that she’s her “fairy godmother” which made me wonder if the writers forgot which fairy tale they were massacring. They start spending time together and Maleficent finds her heart being re-awakened as she begins to love Aurora. So she tries to repeal the curse, but no such luck because when she made up the curse in the first place she said NOTHING could undo it. NOTHING. Not even the one who created it. Well except for true love’s kiss. But shit, this is getting complicated.
Meanwhile, Aurora finds out about the curse and rushes to the castle where she meets her daddy for the first time and throws herself into his arms. Despite all the effort he’s put forth protecting her, in the end he’s an evil white male bastard and he doesn’t really care very much so he immediately locks her away for her own good. Blah, blah, blah, and then she pricks her finger and falls asleep.
The rest of the movie is an incomprehensible mess in which the script bends over backwards to portray Maleficent as the victim, which it largely succeeds at doing but only because King Stefan is so one-dimensionally (and inexplicably) evil. Mixed in there somewhere is a scrawny young prince but he, unlike pretty much every other male in the film, isn’t evil, he’s just completely useless and unnecessary.
So what is the message that this movie will send to its target audience of impressionable young children?
Men are evil and untrustworthy. If a woman is evil it’s just because a man made her that way. And, if a man isn’t evil he’s just not important to the story.
Great job, Disney.
I had heard rumours that this film was a revisionist-feminist shit fest. The rumours were true. I didn’t really think there could be a revisionist fairy tale worse than Snow White and the Huntsman but I was wrong. At least Angelina Jolie’s performance isn’t nearly as terrible as Charlize Theron’s. And Kristen Stewart isn’t in it, so that’s something.