Every story has two sides to it, even the story of everybody’s favorite dark fairy. Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) was once a proud and noble fairy, defender of the Moors. When a human steals her wings, she seeks vengeance by cursing Aurora (Elle Fanning), the daughter of King Stefan (Sharlto Copley), who grows up to be that one princess who did that thing with the spinning wheel. Maleficent begins to rethink her actions, however, when she realizes that Aurora may be the key to bringing peace to her own kingdom.
Maleficent is a shaky, yet enjoyable film that rests entirely on Angelina Jolie’s impeccably crafted cheekbones. She’s perfectly cast as Disney’s most iconic villain, coming off as nothing less than a force of nature or an elemental goddess, and shining far greater than most of the film’s cast. Fanning is an acceptable if unremarkable princess, but Copley is embarrassingly one-dimensional as King Stefan. The only actor who stands his or her own against Jolie is Sam Riley as Maleficent’s wereraven familiar Diaval. This film is Jolie’s and Jolie’s alone, and she more than anyone else seems to know it.
However, even Jolie can’t save the film from its shortcomings, try as she might. Most of it comes down to the screenplay by Linda Woolverton, which reaches for emotional climaxes that it never earns and deals with imminently predictable plot beats. The gorgeous visuals make up for it a little though, an engrossing mix of Miayazaki wonderment and Del Toro weirdness. Telling the story from Maleficent’s point of view also gives the film both unexpected sources of comedy and drama, such as the depiction of the good fairies as incompetent buffoons or the rather complex relationship between Maleficent and Aurora (or Maleficent and Diaval for that matter).
In the end, it’s Angelina Jolie’s fully committed, effortlessly charismatic turn as Disney’s best villain that makes it worth watching, even if the film surrounding her isn’t up to her fully committed performance.
P. S. There is no reason to stay through the credits unless you want to hear Lana Del Ray breathe at ALL the wrong moments during an otherwise charming version of “Once Upon A Dream.”
6 out of 10 / B-