My Love Hate Relationship with Angela Jolie’s Maleficent

Written by Terri Hardin Jackson. Posted in Terri Hardin

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Published on July 02, 2014 at 3:00 am with 31 Comments

Just last Saturday I had a birthday. I love birthdays. Mentally, I have to say I’m always excited like a 5-year-old child. I still love getting up early and seeing the sunrise as I run my 4 miles per day. Then, coming home after my run and making tea and breakfast for the love of my life, as our little bulldog snores loudly at our feet. Then, playing with the toys that I’ve been given to celebrate my special day.

I also love to coach folks on finding their inner talents and teaching them how they can make money from their skills. Last week was an exceptional week for helping people to do just that and I get a kick from that every time.

FINALLY,  I’m happily preparing to do a book signing and give a talk at Friends Of The Mouse in Orange County this Saturday, June 28th at 12 noon at the Garden Grove Historical Society.

Plus, Disneyland’s Birthday is coming up quickly. I’ll be on hand to meet and greet all who decide to stop by Coke Corner to chat and tell stories as we all enjoy saying Happy Birthday to the greatest Park in the world. I hope to see you there. Whoo Hoo!

Now, on with the show and the real reason for today’s article . . .

My Love Hate Relationship with Angela Jolie’s Maleficent

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article that touched upon the film Maleficent.

I was very excited to see the new film, but I was fearful because I didn’t want her to turn out to be a weenie. Well, to my sorrow, not only did she turn out to be a weenie, but the whole cast turned out to be a bunch of weenies.

Forgive me. Let me start over. When someone criticizes something, they ought to tell what they liked about it first. I mean, that’s only fair.

So what did I love about the film?

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I loved the look of Angela Jolie as Maleficent. This actress looked so fierce it made me shudder with delight as she clinched her teeth together. I also enjoyed Maleficent’s wonderful wardrobe. I think it’s about time that she got one. I just loved her furs, yummy! The idea that the horns were an actual part of her structure and how her outfits incorporated various wraps around the horns to complete the fashion was fabulous.

I know many of you just loved the film and that’s the beauty of having many films to go to and many films to choose from. We all have different tastes and come from different attitudes; therefore, different opinions. Allow me to state mine.

Before I continue, I’d like to warn those who have not yet seen the film to consider before they read on as there are spoilers. Perhaps you would like to go see the film first and then come back and read how I feel if you wish.

What did I not love about the film?

After seeing this film, I felt kinda sick and disappointed; however, I wanted to really think about my feelings. I didn’t come out of the film spitting nails and cursing or anything. Still, I wasn’t happy.

I’ve decided that I most likely would’ve loved the film if they hadn’t titled it Maleficent. It was a decent film about a wronged fairy, but it just wasn’t Maleficent’s story.

It burns me when Hollywood sees something that it likes and then makes too many films that follows in that same pattern. Wicked, the musical comes out on Broadway with a story about a poor, sad, mistreated Wicked Witch. Now it seems like every evil creature is a poor wronged mistreated character. It was a fresh and lovely idea for Wicked.

Maleficent means Evil Doer. This is how she got her name. She is the ultimate villain. It’s just the wrong title for this film.

In Sleeping Beauty, as in many fairy tales, the moral of the story is when you are pure of heart and full of truth, you can overcome evil. True love conquers all in the original Sleeping Beauty. A simple story, but one I love and feel we just don’t have enough of nowadays.

What was the moral of the new film? Was it that the villain was someone bullied and wronged and that if you were bullied when young that your destiny is to grow up and be an angry villain? I was bullied and it wasn’t my destiny?

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In the new film, the 3 fairies are just idiots. You wonder how they ever were trusted to do anything at all, let alone take care of Aurora. In Sleeping Beauty, they were savvy and smart fairies to be reckoned with.

In this new version, the queen was a walk-on never to be seen again and Aurora was bland as dry toast. Beautiful, but with only one facial expression that she used over and over. A lovely girl, but where was the shyness and the beautiful timid sweetness that we have all come to love in the original?

The classic Maleficent is my favorite villain. I just love the way that she is determined to defeat good, but that good is just as determined to defeat her. Great, strong conflict as the prince must ride before it’s too late to save the kingdom, right down to the raven being turned to stone by our kick-butt trio of good fairies.

I even began to be drawn into this new version. I felt hope as Maleficent started to deliver her curse. The wind rose and the robes rustled and she became green and looked very scary. Yea! But my hopes were soon dashed when her lines went something like this:

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The child will grow up in beauty and happiness . . . 16th birthday . . . blah, blah . . . prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel . . . stagger a bit and then pass out. No wait, too harsh . . .fall asleep, but not harshly. . . gently . . . while watching her favorite soap opera . . . and she won’t hurt her head as she falls to the floor as would happen with someone who is suddenly asleep instead.

And, so you won’t be shocked, she’ll float gently to the ground in slow-mo so that true love’s kiss can wake her up and all will be butterflies and flowers, as we wouldn’t want you to think that life can be a challenge or anything.

What? There is no need to get creative here. The line is very simple. Say it with me.

“She will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and DIE!”

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DIE, DIE, DIE!

Is this so hard? And then, because of this new PC line version, the third fairy looks more like a dolt because she has nothing to dispel. If I were Flora, Fauna and Mary weather, I’d sue for deformation of character.

In this film the prince is just window dressing and really not needed at all. He awkwardly says hello with a horse that just stands there. What’s up with that?

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The fairies are useless and King Stefan is the unbelievable bad guy, so messed up that he doesn’t even like himself.

And, talk about evil, the place this film went with the disfigurement of Maleficent was just this side of sexual assault. So beyond horrible and nasty and more brutal then anything Maleficent did or could do in the original Sleeping Beauty.

Now you know why I make a good storyteller. I’m very passionate.

Just like you when an artist hasn’t created something “on model” for you to collect. Or when someone says something negative about Walt Disney, your passion comes out as well.

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This is my passion coming out about my beloved Villain.

Maybe it’s not fair to compare, but compare we do. It cannot be helped. When you title a film after one of Disney’s finest villains, be prepared to hear from both sides.

Needless to say, this is why I was disappointed. I welcome your comments. If you loved the film, no worries, don’t take my comments personally as they are my opinion and mine alone.

I know that I will ruffle a few feathers here. I apologize ahead of time.

My perfectly loveable artist run had to hit a road bump at some point. I look forward to hearing your opinions.

And next time around, how about we chat a bit about Star Wars? What do you think about Harrison Ford’s unfortunate accident on set when a door fell on him? My goodness!

See you next time.

About Terri Hardin Jackson

Terri Hardin has designed attractions as a Disney Imagineer from 1987-1997. She's also a Jim Henson Puppeteer and has worked on over 42 film and TV projects including Ghostbusters & Captain EO. She currently creates Disney collectables and plays a Foster Farms Chicken.

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  • OprylandUSA

    I agree with most of your points –
    But Aurora was bland as dry toast in the original as well – that’s why I’ve been so drawn to Maleficent over the years.

    I can give Maleficent some slack over butchering the one line – because that’s the only time in the whole film where she’s really all that mean, or even dressed like her animated counterpart.

    I liked it thought – probably for the visualization of the burning of the spinning wheels – but would have liked it more if I had heard the one line that scared me to death as a child. “Now, you will deal with me, o’Prince… And all the powers of Hell!” Wow… swearing in an animated Disney movie! She really is the mistress of all evil.

  • LoveStallion

    Finally saw Maleficent a few weeks ago. I pretty much loathed it, though I didn’t have the highest of expectations.

    My biggest problem was how tonally capricious the whole affair was. It started out as a rape-and-revenge sort of film, but then the middle third is super inane slapstic nonsense courtesy of the insufferable fairies, and the end just drifts into anonymous action trope blah blah blah. Maleficent herself didn’t even become the dragon? WTF?

    I also think it suffered from sort of using the Frozen angle on true love a mere six months after our little Nordic fable stunned us all. Now Disney will start being known as the company that turns true love tropes on their heads.

    Agreed on the title, but that’s all branding. They can’t tell the Sleeping Beauty story without the name Maleficent, even if the end winds up being a revisionist take that takes a giant dump on everything related to Sleeping Beauty.

    Really, it’s a pretty bad movie. I’m surprised by the legs its shown at the box office. It might even pass X-Men’s domestic cume.

    A better movie? Maleficent stays evil, wrapped up in her grief and need for revenge, only to die at the hands of that discount One Direction member they used for Phillip.

  • Witches of Morva

    ORDDU: Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the Maleficent movie. I suspected all along that this movie would turn out to be pretty much what it did. So I wasn’t expecting it to be nearly as good as the animated Sleeping Beauty. (By the way, the king’s name is King Stefan and not Stephen.)

    I did not like the fact that they changed the names of the 3 good fairies or that they were changed to such idiotic, useless characters. It would have been far more dramatic and interesting it they had come across like the original Flora, Fauna and Merryweather with comic relief attributes but with competent acts of serious intelligence where it mattered. The way the script was written, Maleficent had no one to truly challenge her–unless it might be King Stefan but nobody was rooting for him since he was a villain, himself.

    Perhaps Aurora’s purity was the one true challenge for Maleficent. I have always loved the pure in heart characters most–such as Aurora–and did not find her to be the least bit bland. If anything, she was very endearing exactly as she was portrayed. For me she was the main reason to appreciate this film. (I’ve never been a lover of villains because they are too negative and evil don’t need anyone’s support.) But give me a truly innocent character to admire and I fall in love with them. It takes a lot of inner strength to remain pure in such a wicked world as ours so when someone good comes along THEY are the one’s who deserve all the support.

    At the end of the day, this film was entertaining enough but nothing to be taken all that seriously because it will never be able to successfully stand up next to the original animated Sleeping Beauty–where the REAL Maleficent is just plain evil with no need for a back story to justify or dilute what she really is…

  • daliseurat

    I really enjoyed the film. For what it IS. Not for what I wanted it to be. I didn’t like the stupid fairies, and I really felt they totally fell short with King Stefan. They could have really done something twisted and warped with him, dropping hints about who he truly would become. Instead all we really got was him being a thief at the beginning. And when he chose not to kill her…I expected to see him somehow wracked with guilt or something…otherwise why’d he lose his nerve in the first place? And if the wigs were alive, why didn’t they fly back to her before? Did she need to be close? But everything with Maleficent? I really liked. For what it IS. Becasue it has very little to do with the original story of the Wizard of Oz…I mean Sleeping Beauty…

    • LoveStallion

      Yeah, Sharlto Copley was waaaaaay miscast.

    • Baloo

      The wings were in cased in a cabinet with iron so they could not just fly back to Maleficent. Remember Iron hurt the fairy.

  • rstar

    Terri, like you I wanted to love this film. I felt that Angolina could make a wonderful villain with Malificent. But wait……

    (SPOILERS)

    SHE woke Aurora with true loves kiss? The story from Walt Disney that we love….got it wrong??? WTH??? They should have just painted Malificent green.

    I walked out of the theater stunned and confused.

    That said, I still think Angalina did a wonderful job with the missguided script.

  • Mouseaphile

    The stories from the point of view of the villain didn’t just start with Wicked, I used The Absolutely True Story of the Three Little Pigs as a springboard to inspire my 8th grade ELA students to write a persuasive essay from the point of view of the villain long before Wicked. They had so much more fun with it than chewing gum, or uniforms. This is not Aurora’s story, it is Maleficent’s. History is written by the victors, and in the original tale, she lost. Maybe this was the true story? (In a world of imagination) That being said, I thought Angelina Jolie was visually a magnificent Maleficent.

  • ericmryan

    It clearly sounds like you and I saw the exact same film. I have been making these same points to people since seeing the film about a month ago.

    In the scene with the curse, Maleficent shows up dressed as in the animated film and appears to be known to everyone in attendance as they all respond in a way that says “Oh no, that evil fairy that shows up to mess with us is back again.” But from watching the film, we know Maleficent has never been to the castle before and, as far as the kingdom knows, she’s dead. That’s why Stefan is king. But I guess no cares now. (“That Stefan kid really got us! He fooled us all but he’s king now, so what’re you gonna do?”)

    Then her extra wordy (apparently just made in anger) curse, in which she is considerate enough to include a cure but also make sure to include (in the fine print) a way stop herself from being able to remove the curse later when she ultimately calms down and returns to her pre-wing removal persona. In the original film Maleficent’s short simple curse demonstrate the level of her cruelty as she doesn’t kill the baby right then, she tells everyone that at some point within the next sixteen years the child will die. She wants them to have to grow to love her first and to may it extra tortuous, she tells them how it will happens so they can be obsessed with a futile effort to try and prevent it. That’s evil.

    So what do you when your child is cursed like this? Animated King Stefan reluctantly hands his new baby over to three of the most trusted friends of the kingdom to hide and protect her until the sixteen years has passed. Live action Stefan willingly hands her to the three stooges, who we have no reason to believe he has ever met before and who also appear to be visiting the kingdom for the first time. Good choice, considering with the first couple of year they nearly end up inadvertently killing the child themselves on several occasions. Thank goodness they are so inept at trying to hide her that Maleficent (quick tangent: Maleficent’s is always Maleficent throughout the movie, it is not a name she bestows upon herself when she decides to become evil. At one point she makes mention of her parents. So her fairy parents saw their newborn baby and said to themselves “Let’s give our beautiful sweet baby a name that means: maliciously harmful.”) is able to find them right away and then she is around all the time to save her.

    If this had not tied its story to SLEEPING BEAUTY (1959), it could have made for a good fantasy film about a the love and betrayal between a fairy and a human.

  • Cory Gross

    “Maleficent” was just awful, though not awful in a way that makes me angry… Awful in a way that makes me forget that I’ve seen it. It was clearly an attempt to cash in on “Wicked” by way of that glut of gritty rebooted fairy tale fantasy films where giant CGI armies collide with each other (i.e.: “Lord of the Rings,” “Chronicles of Narnia,” “Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland,” “Jack the Giant Killer,” “Snow White and the Huntsman,” “Oz the Great and Powerful,” etc.), but it missed anything that actually worked about any of those stories.

    “Wicked” worked because it was still a fairly novel idea and reworked it in such a way that was consistent with the characters in many respects, like how the Wizard of Oz always was a shyster. “Maleficent” just did a series of crude inversions: Maleficent is super-heroic all the time, the kid Stefan is super-nice but the other Stefan who is a totally different character is super-evil, the three fairies are super-ridiculous, Philip is super-ineffectual (which is impressive considering he already didn’t do a whole lot in the original film either)… The only person approaching an actual character was Aurora, except that she was also super-genteel and super-cute and all that. There was no character complexity, just rote attempts to do the opposite of the original film. There was no one to become engaged with because everyone was one-dimensional. There was no attempt to explain why Maleficent is so evil, because she’s not. It wasn’t about sympathizing with the villain, because Maleficent wasn’t the villain. And then huge CGI armies clashing at each other is just cliché now anyways, to the point where I laughed when I first saw it in the trailer.

  • RBNeale

    I didn’t hate the movie, and in fact enjoyed most of it while watching it, especially the look of it (except for the ridiculous cat-suit that Maleficent wears in the final fight–You don’t put Spider-Man in a muumuu and you don’t put Maleficent in a cat-suit). But, still, I was disappointed to find that they had completely Wicked-ized the character, not only making her misunderstood, but making her ultimately downright good. What Stefan did to Maleficent at the outset of the movie certainly provided sufficient motivation for her to turn evil and lay down that curse (although I wish they’d shown more of the development of the relationship between Stefan and Maleficent so that all that trauma didn’t just come out of nowhere). I just wish they’d found a way to keep Maleficent (justifiably?) evil, yet doomed, knowing that what she’s doing is evil and wrong, but unable to stop herself. It could have a net effect of teaching Aurora to be a better person, but Maleficent should have died. And she should have turned into the Dragon herself.

    This wasn’t nearly as coherent as I’d hoped it would be, but I hope you get my meaning anyway…

  • danielz6

    Wow sounds like the film was worse than I expected. I read online about the lack of the “die” in the curse and new at that moment that it would be lame. I knew it would be a big CGI display with poor story, basically making money off what was done so well in the 60s(hey kinda like disneyland).
    As for the title, you can see the same strategy in the newer films like frozen, tangled, where the title is not necessarily the most accurate choice for the film but wrather what will have the widest appeal.

  • danielz6

    I originally thought he film was a prequel to Sleeping Beauty and was stoked. What a great idea! But why retell a story that was already done so well to begin with? Redundant. Maybe it should’ve been titled Beneficent.

  • disneylike

    Once a writer tries to justify evil, nothing else will make sense. John Steinbeck understood this when he created the character Cathy Ames in his novel ‘East of Eden’, she is an evil woman who manipulates and destroys people for her own amusement and profit. There was no reason or justification for her being so, she was evil because she wanted to be, she chose to be … she and she alone is responsible for her actions (shall we have a backstory for King Stefan to then justify his bad behavior?).

    It is no secret that screen writer Linda Woolverton has an agenda and unfortunately she placed that agenda front and center, causing her story and characters to suffer from it. She failed to understand that she was “standing on the shoulders of giants”, those that came before her and created iconic characters and stories. Instead of being respectful of those talented artists she disrespected them. She could have at least had the decency to present her story as an original one instead of using the “built in” audience that ‘Sleeping Beauty’ gave her.

    If Maleficent is such a “Hero” then why at the end of ‘Fantasmic’ does Micky both fear and defeat her? This is what happens when Disney messes with their own iconic characters.

  • glass_slipper

    Has no one seen the show Once Upon a Time? Disney is very much in the business of “messing” with their own characters. I, for one, welcome the fresh interpretation. I rather enjoyed Maleficent. My biggest problems were the miscast Sharlto Copley and the lack of in-depth character development. It seemed like there were too many dialogue-less scenes of brooding Maleficent, brooding Stefan, or happy Aurora. The writers, ironically, relied too heavily on our collective memories of these characters instead of getting us to care about the newly interpreted personalities.

    I think that looking at a story through a new lens is what makes the characters timeless – even transcendent. Before Disney created their version of Sleeping Beauty, there were a number of versions of the story spanning hundreds of years. The Brothers Grimm got their version from Charles Perrault who got it Giambattista Basile. Which one is the “real” story? Does it matter? Look at comic books. Look at all of DC’s interpretations of Batman. Sure, some might prefer Bob Kane’s iteration over Frank Miller’s, but does that make either one of them wrong? Why can’t they both exist? Why can’t Mickey fight Maleficent at Disneyland while she saves Aurora in a movie? If anything, this ADDS to the canon and mythos of Disney stories. It doesn’t detract.

    • disneylike

      Why can’t Mickey fight Maleficent at Disneyland while she saves Aurora in a movie? For the same reason that Mickey can not fight the Blue Fairy or Tinkerbell. For the same reason we stop on a red light and go on a green, to do otherwise would be disastrous.

      • glass_slipper

        There is, in the DC Universe, a series of comics in which Superman crash lands on Earth twelve hours later and becomes a weapon of Communist Russia. The DC universe didn’t implode from that. I think it’s wonderful to allow writers and artists to play with a canon of established characters to create new stories and new ways to engage with them. I don’t think Maleficent is going to cause a pile-up on Harbor and Katella.

    • mondo

      I don’t watch Once Upon a Time? How do they “mess” with their own characters?

      For Maleficent, I wish she turned into a dragon.

    • KENfromOC

      I agree with glass-slipper! I enjoyed the fact that Disney took their “own” Beauty story and completely flipped it around! It does not take away anything from the original for me because this is (somewhat) live action rather than animation. Sure it mimicked Wicked ( which I have yet to see) but as they say, there aren’t really any truly original stories anymore. Even the basis for Wicked had been down countless times before ( the “wronged” bad guy storyline?).

      But we all seem to agree that why did they pick that idiot actor for Stephan?

  • ex-wdi

    Maleficent is movie making by committee at its worst. This was not an artistic endeavor, a creative passion, nor a story worth telling. It was designed by suits, discussed via focus groups, and cast to maximize profits. It’s a horrid example of how not to make a film. To top it off, the effects were terrible, the world uninteresting, and frankly the acting was bad too. Just a total mess.

    • disneylike

      Well said! As your name implies perhaps you have/had an inside seat as to the goings on in the Disney Company. I’m guessing the same might be true about the parks as well, Ariel’s Undersea Adventure is how old and they have already made how many “fixes” to it? Sounds like the creators and artists are being hamstrung.

      • ex-wdi

        I was at WDI over a decade ago, so the current management and goings on are just speculation for me at this point. But I do know the way the film and theme park industries work very well, and it’s pretty clear what happened with Maleficent.

  • Neverlandtink

    Great review/article, Terri. Thank you, and I agree. I’d like to add that my biggest disappointment was the treatment of Aurora’s parents. In the original story, her parents loved her, worried about her, did their best to protect her and were thrilled to see her again. This movie, with the PC confusion of who was the hero and who was the villain, took that basic parental love leaving only confusion. The king’s army could have cut Maleficent’s wings off without using Stephan and ultimately she comes after him and his baby for revenge. Keep Malificent evil, keep loving parents and a story closer (good vs. evil) to the original.

    I thought the movie was well made and entertaining, but I have to agree with you ~ too many weenies.