Maleficent has promising elements for her now grown-up fans. Angelina Jolie is destined for this role. There’s high production value for dazzling special effects.
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie doesn’t justify these efforts.
The movie sets aside a stereotypical fairytale romance for female solidarity, but the script is uninterested in doing anything inventive or radical in a story about a villain. The plot simply retells the story of Sleeping Beauty and adds a twist, which involves a symbolic date rape.
Maleficent curses a child with an incurable coma because of this but inexplicably gets a change of heart. Apparently, all King Stefan needed was a trio of incompetent fairies to convince his worst enemy to not hurt his child.
Instead of developing her relationship with Aurora, the story turns to a subplot – paranoid King is paranoid. This will make sense later and it’s revealed that Maleficent is a scorned woman. One can argue she’s angry because of something else, but the Disneyfied script makes it hard to see.
The cast does their best to sell this inconsistent movie (is it a fairytale, dark fantasy, or medieval science fiction?). Angelina Jolie is stuck doing a series of poses with either an icy stare or a self-satisfied smile. Sharlto Copley manages to make something out of a one-note villain. Elle Fanning doesn’t have much to do but be naive and pretty.
Maleficent ends like any other Disney movie – a neatly wrapped up redemption story. This is not the story of an anti-hero, it’s the story of a jilted ex who got her groove back.
Maleficent is a generic disneyfied crowd-pleaser that misses the point of its titular character.