Maleficent is as eye-catching in its execution and clever in its writing as you could hope for. What’s more, it also has a spiritual truth at its heart: sins are far more easily regretted than dealt with.
In essence Maleficent is a fairy tale, though not the one you’ve been taught to expect says the opening narration: “Let us tell an old story anew and see how well you know it…”
Sleeping Beauty Retold
This is the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ fable first recorded by the Brothers’ Grimm, though this time told from the perspective of the ‘wicked witch’. Maleficent is introduced as a happy fairy girl who grows into her enchanted kingdom’s most powerful protector, played by Angelina Jolie. One day she befriends a poor human boy wanders into her realm, and steadily over time loses her heart to him.
Stefan, played by Sharlto Copley, professes true love but conceals a heart consumed by envy. He eventually steals Maleficent’s wings to please his human king, and become his heir. The betrayal he perpetrates hardens Maleficent’s heart and leads her to curse the new King Stefan’s daughter on the day of her christening. Princess Aurora will be beautiful and loved by all, but will fall into a magical sleep on her 16th birthday from which only ‘true love’s kiss’ will be able to awake her. Since neither Maleficent nor King Stefan actually believe in such a love any more, it appears Aurora is doomed to slumber for all eternity.
Less Spooky Than the Trailer Makes Out
Initially, I struggled to work out who this film was aimed at. The storyline is definitely pitched at the female viewer, but the spooky quality of the advance trailers made me wonder if it was anything you’d be likely to take your daughter to see. However I’m happy to report that the resulting feature is not nearly so dark.
In fact Angelina Jolie does an excellent job presenting both sides of that very human coin – the saint as well as the sinner. We get to see the heart of the evil fairy melt as she learns that there are still lovely people in the world. We also get to see Maleficent come to the conclusion that she is not one of them.
“I’m not asking your forgiveness because what I have done is unforgiveable. I was so lost in anger and hatred, Aurora, but you stole what was left of my heart.”
Evil Actions are Hard to Reverse
Maleficent comes to a point where she repents of the curse she has laid, but finds herself unable to anything to avert its consequences. It seems that evil, once indulged, is as hard to get rid of in the fairy world as it is in ours.
If there is a weakness in Maleficent though, it’s the justification it leads the audience to feel for the heroine’s harshest actions. She certainly was ill-used by Stefan and that nasty piece of work does deserves everything that’s coming to him. But just because we oppose evil doesn’t mean our actions are automatically sanctified. If there’s a real world truth to lay alongside this fable, it’s that only God can be trusted to bring about the justice we cannot.
That’s why Jesus encourages his followers to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. Rather than allowing revenge and regret to warp us into inner Malificents, we take the power from evil and turn it towards making us more like Him.
Release Date: May 29