It was a perfect stormy weekend for heading out to my favorite IMAX theater at the Minnesota Zoo, which boasts the biggest movie screen in the state. When it’s a blockbuster 3D movie like Disney’s Maleficent, big is definitely better! And since I waited a few days after the big premier, I had the theater practically to myself. Yay! If you are already making your slutty Halloween Maleficent costume you need to read on because I may have some more creative options for you! This movie has plenty of symbolism, good and evil, great CGI, beautiful direction and gorgeous costumes worn by Maleficent, played by Angelina Jolie. There are some super cool flying scenes that are awesome in 3D. I enjoyed the plot twist, the Alice In Wonderland-esque rendering of The Moors, which seemed artistically informed by the famous works of Brian Froud and Alan Lee and their beautiful illustration book, Faeries. There was a fair amount of violence and a metaphorical suggestion of rape, but no swear words or anything too extremely scary for kids older than eight. Small children might have nightmares though. I enjoyed the movie and the themes of redemption and the nature of true love—and it was certainly nice not to have the old, childless woman be completely evil. However, I felt that the narration took away from the film and the story could have been told with a bit more character depth, perhaps in the way that the Batman series does. There seemed to be a lot of cooks in the kitchen when it came to the writing credits, so perhaps that played a role in the outcome. However, as far as fairy tales go—maybe simpler is okay. I also loved Lana Del Ray’s rendition of Once Upon A Dream during the credit roll.
STORY SYNOPSIS: SKIP TO AVOID SPOILERS
Maleficent is a twist on an old tale, Sleeping Beauty—which is a twist on an even older tale that I’ll share in a minute! The narrator sets out to tell the tale of two lands, the mortal and corrupt human world and the fairy world of The Moors. The child Maleficent (played by Isobelle Molloy & Ella Purnell) meets child explorer Stephan (Michael Higgins & Jackson Bews) and they soon fall in love, sharing True Love’s First Kiss. But the mortal king is threatened by their inability to penetrate The Moors so he declares war and there is a huge battle in which Maleficent prevails. The king asks for Maleficent to be killed and adult Stephan (Sharlto Copley) betrays Maleficent’s trust by drugging her and cutting off her wings in what is obviously implied as a metaphorical rape. Without her wings Maleficent loses much of her power and her spirit is crushed. She vows to avenge Stephan. Stephan is rewarded for his courage and is made king. He and the queen have a child, Aurora, that Maleficent curses to touch a spindle and fall into a deathlike sleep spell on her 16th birthday that can only be broken by True Love’s First Kiss. Maleficent believes the spell will never be broken because she has ceased to believe in love. To protect Aurora (played mostly by Elle Fanning), the king sends her away to a country cottage but Aurora ends up developing a friendship with Maleficent who she thinks is her Fairy Godmother. Maleficent however, is merely there to keep a watchful eye on the child until the she is avenged. Maleficent makes use of her shape-shifting sidekick, Diaval, to help her keep tabs on the Aurora and the kingdom. Unexpectedly, Maleficent takes a liking to Aurora and tries to rescind the spell, but it can’t be undone. When the curse takes effect Maleficent goes to the palace to try and undo the spell, bringing a handsome young prince with her to do the kissing. But the prince barely knows Aurora and his kiss does not work! Ultimately, Maleficent ends up kissing the child on the forehead as she is filled with regret and the child awakes. Then there’s a big battle/dragon scene during which Aurora finds herself in the belfry of the castle. When she releases Maleficent’s wings—with the help of CGI technology—the wings refuse onto Maleficent’s body. Maleficent then kicks some fairy godmother ass and kicks the king to the curb—literally.
THE ‘ORIGINAL’ SLEEPING BEAUTY
A writing acknowledgement for Maleficent is given to La Belle au bois Dormant “The Beauty Sleeping in the Wood” by Charles Perrault which was published in 1697. Some have drawn similarities to Maleficent and the story, Wicked. As far as I was concerned as a kid, the original Disney Classic Sleeping Beauty was the original story! But it turns out that before Sleeping Beauty and before La Belle au bois Dormant, in 1634 there was a story called Sole, Luna e Talia (Sun, Moon, and Talia) a grim Italian fairy tale written by Giambattista Basile (Aren’t all fairy tales grim though?). I love this because recently I watched the documentary Everything Is A Remix and this is a such a perfect example of it! So many things are indeed a remix of earlier works! After all, there are only seven basic plots.
SOLE LUNA E TALIA SYNOPSIS
A great lord was told by astrologers that his daughter Talia would become endangered by a splinter of flax. The lord keeps all the flax from coming into the house but Talia manages to find it in the community when a woman is spinning flax on a spindle. She attempts to spin some flax, gets pricked and the splinter goes under her fingernail and bam! Sleepy time! The lord puts Talia away in a country cottage unconscious where years later, a king roaming the woods tries to wake her up. When he can’t he rapes her. She ends up giving birth to twins while unconscious. (For some, unconscious birth might be the way to go.) One of the babies can’t find her mother’s breast and sucks on her finger, pulling the splinter out and making Talia conscious again. Yay! The king comes back and finds Talia to rape her again. When he finds her alive with children he gets a little panicky because he is married. During the king’s sleep, his wife hears him call out Talia’s name. The Queen (the inspiration for the character Maleficent) forges a note to get Talia to bring the children to court. She tries to get the cook to kill the children and serve them to her cheating husband, but the cook serves lamb instead without the queen’s knowledge. But the queen tells her cheatin’ man that he is eating his illegitimate children. Then the queen has Talia brought to court and plans to burn her alive. Talia asks if she can remove her clothes first and the queen agrees. When Talia removes her clothes she screams with grief and the king hears her. The king commands that his wife and her conspirators be thrown in the fire. The cook explains that he saved the kids (called Sun and Moon). The king and Talia get married. The cook gets a promotion. THE END Isn’t that a lovely story? Here is an animated version for your viewing pleasure. What do you think? Might you dress up on Halloween as Talia with a baby stuck on your finger? Or do you prefer that everyone know your name is Maleficent!