Adaptations are an interesting concept. We’ve come to a time where we enjoy seeing things from our past be updated, altered slightly, and presented to us on a silver platter. Maleficent was announced almost three full years before anything actually came from it, and from the first image I was hooked.
I wasn’t annoyed when it was revealed that they would be altering Maleficent’s personality from straight up villain to misunderstood but still morally gray woman. I was intrigued because it so clearly represented morality in the actual world. How often are we told that someone is evil for being evil? In Sleeping Beauty Maleficent was in the right, in her mind and in her culture, to show up unannounced and curse an infant because of the slight. To the Fair people, all slights are weighted equally and to insult a fairy is one of the worst possible things you could do. So even in Sleeping Beauty she had a reason for her homicidal campaign against this kingdom. In Maleficent we are given a much more human and much more relatable reason for her hatred of humans in general.
Angelina Jolie plays the titular character during her adult years and is able to bring a depth of emotion to Maleficent that was simply left out in the original film. Isobelle Molloy and Ella Purnell play Maleficent as a young girl and teen respectively (although poor, poor Purnell had most of her scenes slashed from the film) so we are able to see Maleficent as she grows up and makes a connection with a young human male.
Maleficent tells the tale of two kingdoms that stand divided, the human kingdom which is ruled by King Henry (played by Kenneth Cranham) who has designs on the Moors (The Fairy Kingdom next door). Maleficent, parallel to her romance detailed below, grows up to be their chief protector and thus is considered their leader in an unofficial capacity.
Over time, based on what he has told her and how he has acted, Maleficent falls in love with the young Stefan but it was not a true love and one day her heart would be broken, her trust betrayed, and her wings stolen all so that Stefan can take power as King of the land. Morality, however, is not simply black and white and this is another example. Stefan, while clearly the villain here, is morally gray as well. He took Maleficent’s wings because he was unable to kill her, whether or not he truly loved Maleficent is up for debate. Stefan is played by Michael Higgins as a child and Sharlto Copley as an adult. This betrayal causes Maleficent to declare herself the true Queen of the Moors, with Diaval (Sam Riley), a young raven she saves from a human and gives a human form himself.
It is a sad tale, and it would lead into what we know of Sleeping Beauty from Disney but in a different way. Stefan marries Princess Leila (played by Hannah New) and they have a beautiful young princess whom they name Aurora, which is Latin for Dawn. Aurora, played by Elle Fanning, is the epitome of innocence and naivety but grows quickly and is quite insightful about the world around her. She wants to help make things better between both kingdoms, and is quite certain she feels more secure in the Moors than she ever has in the human kingdom.
From Maleficent’s unannounced arrival at the christening to the three good fairies, here named Knotgrass (pink, played by Imelda Staunton), Thistlewit (green, played by Juno Temple), and Flittle (blue, played by Lesley Manville), and even Prince Phillip (played by Brenton Thwaites) the story takes many liberties and gives us a brand new story designed to explore true morality. Each of these characters have aspects of who they were in Sleeping Beauty, but they’re all quite different in the long run. Some of this was for the better, others were a little more annoying.
Maleficent is a truly wonderful film, and if you haven’t seen it already you need to check it out and if you have seen it just see it again!