Film review: Maleficent

The summer blockbuster season is almost upon us – How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Pudsey:The Movie will be among the more family-friendly offerings during the school holidays.  But as a warm up act, we have Disney’s much-awaited Maleficent, which is released today.  And they don’t much more stylish than that ……

 

 

From the trailer it all looks rather dark, gothic and even a touch strong for a family audience.  The film has been given a PG certificate, so the over eights should be fine with it although, of course, the final decision is yours.  The trailer shows the two main battle scenes and, while they’re action packed and exciting, we never actually see anybody being hurt and there’s no sign of blood whatsoever.  Even when Maleficent herself is trapped underneath chainmail net – we learn early on that iron will burn a fairy’s skin – there’s little sign of it doing her any damage.

So, to the film itself, and this has been billed as the back story to the villain from Sleeping Beauty.  We learn how Maleficent grew up as a fairy but was eventually betrayed by a human being and lost her wings.   With her heart turned to stone, she seeks revenge by cursing the king’s baby daughter Aurora but, as the child grows up, she discovers that her heart isn’t completely hardened.

 

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So what we have is actually a mixture of that back story and the familiar fairy tale, but with a few tweaks for good measure.  It’s not really a typical fairy story, however.  Wrapped up with CGI, 3-D and fantastic forest creatures into a package for 21st century audiences, in spirit, it’s closer to being a fantasy adventure – more Bilbo than Brothers Grimm.

We’ve known from the start this would be Angelina Jolie’s film and she dominates it from her first appearance right to the very end.  She looks spectacular as Maleficent, with chiselled cheekbones that would cut through butter, fabulous horns and, with her glorious wings, she soars.  Some shots make her look more like an archangel than a fairy.  But it’s not just about her looks.  She’s actually really impressive in the role as well.  Cool and clearly relishing the chance to be wicked, there is always the hint of something warmer underneath.  She also sports a more than passable English accent – despite the occasional wobble – which she says she based on classic British actresses.

 

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Much has been made of the fact that Jolie’s own daughter, Vivienne, appears in the film.  She plays Aurora as a toddler and the reason was that all the other children who visited the set were frightened by the actress’s appearance as Maleficent: they either burst into tears or froze.  But to Vivienne, she was simply her mum and, although they have just the one scene together, it works fine, with the little girl happily smiling up at her.

With such a strong central character, at first sight it appears that Elle Fanning has lucked out in getting the role of  the grown up Princess Aurora.  Goodies are always less interesting than baddies, after all, and she is all purity and innocence.  So it says a lot for Fanning’s ability as an actress that she’s able to bring strength and intelligence to a character who could have been just too good to be true.

Maleficent is a classy piece of entertainment that should cast its spell over just about every member of the family, regardless of age, this half term.  Its combination of action, good visuals and strong acting means that this summer has got off to a great start – at the cinema, at least!

 

Maleficent is released in UK cinemas today, Wednesday, 28 May.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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