Maleficent is a young and powerful faerie in the magical realm of The Moors. When she meets a peasant boy called Stefan, the two of them become firm friends, falling in love as the years pass. But Stefan’s greed and ambition brings him to betray Maleficent. Consumed by anger and wrath she unleashes a terrible curse on Stefan’s baby daughter, Aurora. However, as Maleficent watches the girl grow up, Aurora’s wonder and love of the world makes the faerie fear the consequences of her hasty actions.
Maleficent (2014) – Director: Robert Stromberg
Running Length: 97 mins
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley
Genre: Drama, Action/Adventure, Fantasy
‘Maleficent’ is a retelling of the classic 1959 Disney movie, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, told from the perspective of the misunderstood villain. Having limited material of Maleficent’s character and a blank canvas of her life before the events of ‘Sleeping Beauty’, allows her story to be expanded upon exponentially. The titular, good-natured Maleficent (Jolie) is a victim of the consequences of human greed which corrupts her with spite and hate. However, the interesting concept of ‘Maleficent’ is that ‘bad’ isn’t necessarily permanent and the hope that anyone can return to goodness is one that creates a wonderful empathy for the character.
Jolie is excellent in the lead role, portraying a woman scorned and sinking low, but clinging onto an unexpected chance of redemption. Showcasing a range of emotions from start to finish without being either too simpering or unsympathetic makes her character very believable. It is a little disappointing that the three pixie characters (who take Aurora to protect her as a baby) are not as charming as they were in the animated movie; they come across as rather self-centred and clueless albeit well-meaning in their attempts to help the child. This may be a deliberate attempt to turn the classic Disney tale on its head, but it makes it difficult for the audience to warm to them.
‘Maleficent’ is a very good family movie which will engage each member on a different level. While there are some scary moments and it isn’t necessarily suitable for younger children, the modern feel to this classic tale is bound to be entertaining to everyone who watches it.
IS ‘MALEFICENT’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
At the beginning of the movie when Maleficent was a young girl, she approaches two large creatures which appear to be made from trees. They are incredibly tall and their strange language is spoken in deep, rasping voices. While Maleficent treats them as friends and they are also friendly towards her, they are slightly aggressive towards another character and their natural disposition may be a little scary for young kids.
There is a large battle between the inhabitants of The Moors and the men who live in a nearby town. The violence is not too strong; while there are bound to be some off-screen deaths – only one death is seen where a soldier is impaled by the branch of a large tree – no blood or gore is seen and this moment only lasts for a couple of seconds. The rest of the battle mostly consists of men being thrown into the air and hitting the floor but other than some non-fatal injuries, nothing stronger is seen. Kids may be scared of the huge and loud tree creatures that rise out of the ground to help Maleficent fight the battle but as they are on the ‘good’ side, they should not be too frightening.
Maleficent loses her wings when she is drugged and the person with her initially attempts to stab her in the back as she sleeps. Unable to carry out the murder, this person then chops off the wings from her body. When she wakes up the next morning, she is devastated by what has happened and her anguish is shown for several minutes. She screams in distress and staggers tentatively as she is clearly in a lot of pain.
A lot of the movie shows Maleficent as vengeful and both angrily and calmly evil. There are many close-ups of her face as she scowls and glowers and there are also several moments where she uses large-scale magic to scare, intimidate or curse other characters. These moments could be very frightening for young kids as the lighting is purposefully dark and scary, her voice booms loudly and the dialogue is quite mature in tone with references to death and vengeance. She also brings her anger to The Moors and the creatures there are afraid of and intimidated by her.
When Aurora is sent away from the palace for protection as a baby, she is supposed to be taken care of by the three pixies who attended her christening. However, they are very neglectful and are unable to actually keep her safe. While Aurora is a baby, there is very little time that she is not crying. It is made clear that the pixies are unable to feed her properly and she cries constantly. There is a scene where the pixies acknowledge that she needs food during the daytime, her cries continue from this point until night-time. The pixies are shown sleeping as Aurora cries and the only indication that she does get fed eventually is that she grows into an older child and then a teenage girl! One character says that she could starve to death. When we were watching this movie in the theatre we heard one young child in the audience ask his parents why the baby was crying and he seemed quite distressed by her suffering.
As a toddler, Aurora also falls off a cliff, she screams as she falls but is saved by a branch and returned to safety and when she is a teenage girl, Aurora mentions that her aunts (the pixies) once ‘accidentally fed (me) spiders’.
The king, Aurora’s father, becomes obsessed with Maleficent’s curse and it begins to drive him insane. In one scene, he is shown sitting alone in a dark room. A man enters the room and informs him that his wife needs to see him and that she is dying but the king refuses to leave, saying that he is talking to someone. Also, when Aurora returns to the castle, she runs to him and embraces him. He is pleased to see her but unsympathetically sends her away to be locked in a room for a day and turns his back on her to continue his meeting. His callous nature could be quite confusing to some children.
It is established at the beginning of the movie that iron burns magical creatures and after this there are several instances of Maleficent being burned by iron objects. Perhaps the strongest of this is when she is attacked by dozens of soldiers and caught in an iron net. She cries out in pain and struggles to get free, however she is stuck in the net for several minutes. When she escapes, she is surrounded by soldiers with iron shields and has a long iron chain wrapped around her waist. While she is fighting, there are cries of ‘kill her’ and ‘shoot her’ as she attempts to stop them and escape.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
‘Maleficent’ is a wickedly good kids film which is good enough for adults to enjoy with them. With plenty of positive messages, this is a movie that many children will benefit from watching. Due to the sometimes dark and grown-up tone, we feel that this movie may not be suitable for kids aged under 6 and we recommend caution on the first viewing in case any reassurance is needed.
- Violence: 2/5 (lots of action sequences but there is very little actual violence. One quick death is shown on camera. One character falls to their death from a great height, their body is shown lying on the ground from a distance but there is no blood or gore)
- Emotional Distress: 2/5 (one character tells another how much they care for them. This speech lasts a few minutes and becomes increasingly touching, it culminates in an important moment which makes the speech even more poignant)
- Fear Factor: 2/5 (while she is at the castle, Aurora hears spooky whispers that call her and guide her to a specific place. One character turns into a black wolf which aggressively runs at some soldiers and later they turn into a huge dragon which breathes fire at several soldiers, no deaths are shown on-screen)
- Sexual Content: 0/5
- Bad Language: 0/5
- Dialogue: 1/5 (some references to death and murder. One character tells his soldiers to bring Maleficent’s head to him)
- Other notes: Deals with themes of betrayal, revenge, regret, love, loyalty, greed and the good and bad in human nature.
- One of the cinematic trailers before the movie was for ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ – a teen romance. This trailer includes some mild nudity during a scene where the couple are in bed and the boy is undressing the girl; there is a clear indication of sexual contact between the two. While this may be more acceptable during the trailers for a 12A movie, there is more chance of there being young children watching ‘Maleficent’ (a PG certificate) and parents may not be happy with them seeing this level of physical intimacy without warning.
Words by Laura Record