Have you ever wondered why Maleficent was so cruel and cursed the innocent baby, Princess Aurora? What happened to her to make her so angry and evil? This is her story.
The film opens with a beautiful young fairy girl named Maleficent, with entrancing amber-colored eyes and magnificent sprawling wings. She lives in an enchanted land known as the Moors, home to fantastical creatures of all kinds. The land next to the Moors is home to humans and their greedy king wants nothing more than to possess the Moors and the magic that lies within. When a young human boy named Stefan sneaks into the Moors to steal a gem, he and Maleficent meet and discover that while they are very different, they can still be great friends. Over the years, as the pair grows, their friendship deepens into something more. Meanwhile Maleficent has grown into the powerful protector of the Moors. When King Henry decides that he will wait no longer for the Moors, Maleficent is betrayed and violently loses her glorious wings in the process.
As she physically recovers, her heart turns very dark, as do the Moors around her, becoming a sorrowful and dismal place. As she grows in evil power, three silly fairies named Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton, Harry Potter), Flittle (Lesley Manville), and Thistletwit (Juno Temple, The Brass Teapot) escape to the human kingdom and offer their services to the new king (Sharlto Copley), specifically caring for his newborn daughter Aurora. As the story goes, Maleficent attends the baby's celebration and curses her to prick her finger on a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday and to fall into a deathlike sleep forever. The King orders all spinning wheels burned and sends his baby daughter to live in the woods with these fairies, although they are about as capable in childcare as a goat might be. Meanwhile, Maleficent rescues a crow from certain death at the hands of a human and turns him into a man named Diaval (Sam Riley), who becomes her constant companion and slave. He becomes her "wings" and is able to spy on the castle and, together, the pair discover where Aurora is being raised.
Over the years, Maleficent watches the child, all the while having fiendish fun torturing her stupid fairy caregivers. She nicknames Aurora (Elle Fanning) "Beastie" and can't help being drawn to the enchanting young girl, even as she hates the child's father. Eventually, she reveals herself to the young woman and the two become companions, with Aurora having no knowledge of her true identity, nor of Maleficent's. As the story crescendos to the inevitability of Aurora's 16th birthday, and she meets and falls in love with the traveling Prince Phillip, what follows is a really interesting way to turn a classic fairy tale on its head, yet it still works marvelously.
Angelina Jolie is entrancing and delicious as Maleficent. She perfectly embodies what is arguably one of Disney's most fearful villains, yet she does it with style and grace. She portrays her as controlled, yet dangerous; fearsome, yet playful at the same time. She is a true delight. Elle Fanning as Aurora is bursting with innocence and beauty. Even as you watch the special features and the clip below, you'll see this young woman is perfectly suited for this role. She doesn't seem in the least tainted by Hollywood and she is a joy as Aurora. Truly, everyone is great in their roles and Sharlto Copley as the King threw me for a loop as I didn't recognize him at all.
Maleficent is a fantastic treat for any fan of Disney films. It's a fresh take on an age-old story that we all grew up with and would be a perfect holiday gift for any Disney fan on your list.