Disney offered up a brightly wrapped package of Angelina Jolie in a family-friendly live-action updated version of Maleficent. And while it was fun, kids would probably like it, and it was visually awesome…it wasn’t exactly a “classic” tale that will endure forever.
Heck, while the original Sleeping Beauty movie isn’t one of the best, it holds strong as a fairy tale and has some of the all-time best villainess scenes: classic.
But trying to make an obviously Big Bad into a Good Gal is … tough. I’m not sure it works in every case, or even if it ought to be done. I mean, the musical “Wicked” does a great job of it (but I personally found the book to be an unnecessarily dark/sexualized story that didn’t need to be told). Maleficent… would have been a great movie if it didn’t try to interlock with the original.
So I’d like to see someone else (ok, probably still Disney…) tackle a proper Maleficent redo, one that appropriately tied in with the original without changing it.
So what is the problem with this incarnation?
The curse is totally changed. In the original, Maleficent curses the baby to prick her finger by sunset on her 16th birthday, causing her to die. It is only through the intervention of the Good Fairies that the curse is transmuted to “sleep-like death.”
(forgive the bad voice acting. The words are the same, though it isn’t the real actors. Disney being so tough on copyright makes it hard to find the original.)
But this one, in an effort to make our pal Maleficent not as evil, the curse is always “sleep-like death,” and we never even find out what the third fairy blesses Aurora with! (What kind of weak-sauce curse is sleep? I mean, yeah, inconvenient, but not nearly as bad as it couldda been!)
Other things that are changed:
- The Good Fairies are not just adorably ill-equipped to be human, they are downright incompetent and therefore deadly. In this iteration, it makes exactly zero sense that the king would entrust his cursed baby to them. Aurora’s near-death experiences would probably make a good drinking game.
- King Stefan is a bad dude. Like, not “could be interpreted as bad from a certain perspective”–just… bad. He’s probably in need of the creepy asylum guy from Beauty and the Beast. Maybe that guy can come pick him up?
- Maleficent is not the dragon. Instead, she has a companion who changes into the dragon. Color me disappointed. More dragons, please?
- The true-love kisser situation. I get it; it’s modernized, and we now (for good reason!) have a lot of discomfort with kissing sleeping maidens you just met. I don’t even mind the change here, but it’s a big one.
- The whole kingdom isn’t put to sleep. I’m probably the only one disappointed by this, but I thought it was pretty cool that the whole kingdom was affected by Maleficent’s curse, and the short-circuiting of it in this film was a letdown. The kid’s been gone for 16 years; people aren’t the least bit harmed by this magic.
Alright, so they changed a lot of things: Maleficent doesn’t just embroider the original, it tore it up and started something similar but totally different.
So what would I like to see?
First, full-on no-holds barred EVIL Maleficent. I’m ok with evil folks having reasons for evil; that’s nice nuance. But make my toes curl! Scare me a little.
Second, she’s a dragon. The wings thing was neat and all, but no, I want her to be a big old scary dragon who likes to hang out in human form for some reason, except those darned horns won’t change.
Third…let’s get gritty. In my world, the kingdom’s main export is its fine fabrics and woven goods. The spinning wheel is Big Business, so this curse (to death, let’s not sugarcoat it) cleverly both imperils Aurora AND the economy of the entire kingdom. If he wants to save his daughter, the king has to destroy his people’s livelihood. If he doesn’t banish the spinners, he has doomed his daughter.
Makes the curse a whole lot more sinister, right?
So King Stefan banishes the spinning wheels, choosing to try to save his beloved daughter. But almost immediately the effects of his choice are felt, and his kingdom plummets into poverty. People start to curse the name of his daughter, and he fears for her life even more, so he sends her away to live in the woods, entrusted in the care of three fairies– a different class from Maleficent, and therefore safe from her magic.
Adopting a bit of the trope from the new Maleficent movie, maybe then we could have Maleficent come in and observe her handiwork. But I would have REALLY liked it if the curse itself is what changed Malificent’s heart: in the recent wording, Maleficent says “all who encounter her will love her…” I’d like that to extend to Maleficent, as well. So she’s hanging out, lurking around the kid, and the curse forces her to love the baby. In increasing exposure, she is helpless not to fall into her thrall.
I’d like to see where that story could go.
Like I said, a fun movie with INCREDIBLE costume design, but there were a lot of problems and plot holes (your big defense is a hallway full of spikes that you can easily dodge? Ok, Stefan, I’m thinking you weren’t really ready to be king there, buddy).
So if someone could get this version together for me–maybe Jolie can even reprise her role?–that would be swell.