DVD REVIEW: MALEFICENT / DIRECTOR: ROBERT STROMBERG / SCREENPLAY: LINDA WOOLVERTON / STARRING: ANGELINA JOLIE, ELLE FANNING, SHARLTO COPLEY, JUNO TEMPLE / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 20TH
When it comes to the big A-List actors like George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, it's easy to forget that, when it comes down to it, some of them can really, properly act. Over the years, Angelina the actress has been massively superseded by Angelina the humanitarian and Angelina the wife of Brad. Half-arsed rubbish like Salt and The Tourist haven't helped either.
That timely reminder of her talent comes in Maleficent, a revisionist retelling of Sleeping Beauty, from the perspective of the eponymous horn-headed enchantress. What starts out as a fairly clear-cut battle between Good & Evil and Faerie & Mankind becomes something a little sweeter – more heart-rending – as moody Maleficent begins to melt at the charms of cute wee Aurora (Fanning). If you've seen Disney's Sleeping Beauty (of course you have), it'll all feel very familiar, but cleverly adjusted in the name of shaping an entirely different version of the character.
With this and Frozen (and, to a lesser extent, their progenitor Enchanted), there's been a very concerted effort from Disney of late to move away from stories of Princes Charming, beautiful princesses and ‘True Love's Kiss’ – to let the ladies of Disneyland control their own destinies. There is still ample room for all of those things, but there's also the realisation that maybe there's more to life – and other kinds of love – than hunky Prince Whatshisface. At front and centre of the film, Jolie is a magnificent Maleficent, both terrifying and sympathetic. There's a lot of CGI, but it rarely detracts from the character or story. The visuals back her up fully, with a wonderful costume which really brings Maleficent to life, and HD cheekbones so sharp you could use them to peel a (poisoned) apple.
While Elle Fanning, Imelda Staunton and Sam Riley do well as Jolie's support, the weak link in the armour is poor Sharito Copley as Stefan. Lumbered with an iffy Scottish accent and sad lack of development beyond the first half hour, he feels oddly miscast and underused as the film's villain. Still, his actions are dastardly enough that it's hard not to hate the bastard.
As a savvy retooling of an old classic, Maleficent is fantastic. It looks beautiful – like a less bleak Game of Thrones – and manages to retain its heart through an abundance of CGI and not always so well-written supporting characters. It's fun, frequently comical and often stirring. This is Jolie's best performance in years. Never mind Prince Charming and the all-singing, all dancing princesses: there's never been a better time to be bad.