Friday, July 18, 2014

Maleficent (2014)

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a powerful fairy living in the Moors, a magical realm bordering a human kingdom.  As a young girl, she and human peasant Stefan (Sharlto Copley) fell in love and spent much of their time together.  But as the years passed, Stefan grew more ambitious and stopped visiting her.  When the human army attempts to invade the Moors, Maleficent victoriously leads a battle against them.  She fatally wounds the human king, who, on his deathbed, offers to name whoever avenges him as his successor.  Stefan goes to the Moors, seemingly to warn Maleficent of the king's threats, but his desire for the throne is stronger than his affection for her.  After drugging Maleficent, Stefan attempts to kill her but cannot bring himself to do so.  Instead, he burns off her wings with iron and presents them to the king.  When Maleficent wakes, she is devastated by Stefan's betrayal.  Later, she rescues a raven named Diaval (Sam Riley) who becomes her confidant and tells her of Stefan's rise to power and the birth of his daughter, Aurora.  After declaring herself queen of the Moors, Maleficent seeks revenge when she arrives at Aurora's christening to bestow a curse upon the child.  Maleficent is delighted with the success of her scheme, but the passage of time brings about a surprising turn of events!

Maleficent is a spectacular film with a dazzling performance from Angelina Jolie, stunning visuals, epic elements of high fantasy, and an imaginative story that remains true to the spirit of the original!

Angelina Jolie was wonderful as Maleficent!  Intensely majestic, yet with subtle vulnerability, she brought an impressive range to the part.  Maleficent's emotions change drastically throughout the course of the story, and each of these is portrayed with such believability.  She capably crafts a fully realized character, familiar, yet startlingly revealing and nuanced.  One such key scene is when she learns of Stefan's deception; her despair is shattering.

Her appearance was amazing as well; she truly looked fey with very fair skin, striking cheekbones, and color-changing eyes.  She was gloriously gowned in such dark and dramatically cut clothes, very regal yet with fantastical touches that further emphasized her splendor along with the iconic horns and imposing wings.

Although of course it's Angelina who rightly takes center stage, she was supported well by the rest of the cast.  Sharlto Copley was terrific as the ruthless Stefan whose treachery of Maleficent led to their fierce rivalry.  Elle Fanning was sweet as Aurora, while Brenton Thwaites made a charming Prince Phillip.  Sam Riley as Diaval was awesome; he had great rapport with Angelina, as well as many witty lines which often brought about some enjoyable light humor.

The story seamlessly incorporates many classic aspects from the 1959 picture along with its own unexpected twists, giving this fresh take from Maleficent's point of view a timeless appeal.  In fact, the tale feels even more emotionally deeper with these additional details and insights which give further meaning to Maleficent's motives.  One such moment that immensely benefits from this backstory is the christening scene.  It becomes all the more powerful due to the compelling tension between Maleficent and Stefan.

The visuals are gorgeously presented.  I loved the usages of color, as well as the striking contrasts between the two warring kingdoms.  The special effects are excellent, from the magical sights of the Moors to the exhilarating battle scenes.  One of the most memorable pieces of imagery is all the beautiful, shadowy shots of Maleficent in silhouette.

I also really enjoyed the musical score, which enhances and compliments the story's moods perfectly!  It is very stirring; thrilling in climactic moments, and tender in the quieter scenes.

In short, Maleficent is magnificent!  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the film, and am so glad I was able to experience seeing it in theatres.  Thanks to my sister for going with me!

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