On the one hand, it would be very easy to write a sarcastic review of Maleficent. There’s a lot about this re-telling of Sleeping Beauty that falls into the traps of the dark-retelling-of-fairy-tales genre. For one, the King spends sixteen years trying to rid the kingdom of spinning needles so that his daughter won’t fulfill the prophesy by pricking her finger and falling into an eternal sleep, but what he really needs to do is to rid the kingdom of rooftops because he’s fated to fall to his death like every other Disney villain.
On the other hand, this movie was a lot better than I thought it would be, and it deserves a better review than that. Angelina Jolie is perfectly cast as Maleficent, because she delivers every line with a smug cattiness which makes most of her lines sound sarcastic, but her delivery never went so far into camp that it rendered her tame. She consistently scared the kids I saw this movie with and consistently made me laugh, which is no small feat.
Her tone is what makes the movie work, honestly. It used to be that when you saw a fantasy movie there would be a layer of intended seriousness wedded to a layer of ironic presentation – no matter how seriously the actors were treating that dragon it still looked a bit like a prop. But CGI has for the most part destroyed the camp element of fantasy and left it drearier as a result. Now most of the spectacle movies only function on the level of spectacle, but I really miss the humor inherent in watching something that was a bit goofier. The dragons in Maleficent still have that CGI polish to them, but Jolie brings that irony to the table single handedly, because she acts like a drag-queen pretending to be a fairy princess instead of being a straight up princess.
After the movie was over my sister and I were laughing about some of the more ridiculous parts of the story. For example, I was pointing out how every time Maleficent uses magic it comes out of her fingers in green lightning bolts, and green is the most generic color for magic. For some reason that really struck me as silly. But after awhile my sister and I both realized that we were missing that element of silliness in this type of movie – that it had been awhile since there had been a fantasy that worked for us both on a sarcastic level and a serious level. Honestly, I wish we had a lot more throwback movies like this.