'Maleficent' reaches higher ground for Disney revisionists
Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak
The Jakarta Post
Disney's latest offering, Maleficent, is a point of no return for its movie division, which has recently produced several revised takes on popular children's stories.
The live-action movie, whose title character comes from Disney's animated film, Sleeping Beauty, produces a few interesting tweaks to the original tale.
Anticipation for this summer blockbuster has been high since the trailers came out earlier this year and, since its release, it has secured record box-office figures during its opening week in the US, the UK and Canada, surpassing X-Men: Days of Future Past by taking US$176 million in ticket sales.
And the movie, which has also been released in a 3D version, is worth every cent spent to watch it at the cinema.
Maleficent is a darker version of the Grimm brothers' classic tale but it shines brightly, not only because of its A-list cast but also due to the impressive work of the art directors, costume and makeup artists and the computer graphics and effects.
Directed by Robert Stromberg from a script by Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast), Maleficent centers on the travails of the villainess in Disney's 1959 Sleeping Beauty.
The 97-minute movie opens with a narrative by the elderly Aurora (Janet McTeer), who retells her account of the story, bringing the character Maleficent into the picture.
Angelina Jolie is the perfect Maleficent, the most powerful fairy in the remote Moorsland ' the home of fairies, trolls and tree monsters ' as well as a magnificent-looking dragon.
She has her wings removed by the only human she had ever trusted after defending her land from human greed.
The embittered Maleficent later places a sleeping curse on Aurora (Elle Fanning), daughter of King Stefan (Sharlto Copley), to make the girl fall into an endless slumber once she reaches her 16th birthday.
Aurora grows under her watch but she comes to realize that the little 'monster' holds the key to her own happiness.
The costume for the evil Maleficent is magnificent. She is kitted out with a magical staff, an outfit of black leather and a leather robe to match, plus Diaval (Sam Riley), the crow on her arm that she can turn into different animals.
Jolie indeed bares her fangs (and bulky horns) in the movie. Her gestures and facial expressions ' indeed, every sound she makes ' communicate a great depth of meaning.
The makeup artists had a field day, producing a prosthetic nose, ears, cheeks and teeth, which have spawned a number of tutorial videos on Maleficent's makeover on YouTube.
Jolie, who co-produced the movie, works alongside her daughter, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, who plays the younger Aurora ' who is not scared of her horns ' while her older children, Pax and Zahara, appear among the guests in a scene staged in King Stefan's palace.
The three pixies who raise Aurora in the woods ' Knotgrass, Thistlewit and Flittle ' respectively played by Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville ' offer some color to the story, while heartthrob Brenton Thwaites plays Phillip ' the young prince who falls in love with Aurora.
First-time director Stromberg previously won two Oscars for his work as an art director, which helps to explain the overall visual power of the movie and the inventive camera angles ' all of which show Jolie off to the best effect.
James Newton Howard composed the movie's score, which nicely builds the atmosphere and, over the end credits, Lana Del Rey's gothic take on the main Sleeping Beauty theme song, 'Once Upon a Dream', makes for a fitting close.
The only disappointment in the movie is that we do not have the chance to see Maleficent transformed into a fire-breathing dragon as in the 1959 version of the story.
Now, we are all awaiting Disney's take on the Broadway musical, Into the Woods, a story that weaves a number of Grimm fairytales, including Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Cinderella.
The new movie, which includes a number of notable actors and actresses such as Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep, is set to be released by the end of the year.
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