Maleficent is a 2014 American dark fantasy film directed by Robert Stromberg and starring Angelina Jolie as the title character. The story takes inspiration from the 1959 animated classic, Sleeping Beauty, but from the perspective of the villainous Maleficent. It began filming on June 18, 2012, and was released on May 30, 2014 in 3D. It was produced by Joe Roth and directed by Robert Stromberg, from a screenplay written by Linda Woolverton. The song for the film is "Once Upon a Dream", which is performed by Lana Del Rey. The film received mixed reviews from critics, but was a box office and commercial success, grossing $758 million worldwide, making it Angelina Jolie's highest grossing film to date.
In a faraway land, there were two kingdoms. One was ruled by the ruthless King Henry, while the other - known as the Moors - was home to magical creatures and fairies, whom had no ruler due to their intensely close friendship and trust in one another. The strongest and most powerful fairy of all was named Maleficent.
One day, the Moors was disturbed by the presence of a young peasant boy named Stefan, who tries to steal a jewel from the pool of jewels. As the Two Border Guards corner him, Maleficent shows up and tells him to hand over the stolen jewel, which he reluctantly does. After tossing it back where it came from, she escorts Stefan to the border of the Moors. They admit to each other that they are both orphans, and meeting each other is forbidden to both their worlds. However, the two of them eventually become the best of friends, and on Maleficent's sixteenth birthday, Stefan shows her true love's kiss (but in fact it was not).
Over the next couple of years, Stefan stops visiting the Moors because of his ambition and some other reasons, and due to the threatening attacks on Moors by King Henry, Maleficent becomes her homeland's sworn protector. With the forest army by her side, she engages the King's army in battle, defeating them and wounding the King. On his deathbed, the King demands to be avenged. He promises that whoever kills Maleficent shall become the new king and marry his beautiful daughter Leila. It is revealed that Stefan has become one of the king's servants and, wanting to claim the throne, he journeys to the Moors to find Maleficent. She forgives Stefan for his folly and ambition and the two are reunited and spend the night together like they used to. Stefan tricks her into taking a drink that puts her to sleep and after she falls into her slumber, Stefan makes the attempt to kill. However, he hesitates and cannot bring himself to do it. Instead, he burns off her wings using iron (iron burns fairies) and presents them to the dying king, leaving Maleficent in agony. After creating a staff to help her walk, she journeys to an abandoned castle where she hides in the shadows, broken and alone.
One day, she comes across a farmer who has captured a raven. Taking pity on the small bird, she turns the raven into a man. After the farmer runs away in fear, Maleficent approaches the human bird, who introduces himself as Diaval. Since she saved him, he offers to be her humble servant and Maleficent assigns him his first task: to find Stefan. Diaval flies to the castle and witnesses Stefan being crowned king, with Leila as his queen. When he informs Maleficent of what he has learnt, she becomes enraged. She returns to the Moors as dark clouds loom across the forest, then, after roots form a throne, Maleficent sits there as the new Evil Queen of the Moors.
One day, Queen Leila gives birth to a daughter, and she is named Aurora after the dawning of the sun. A royal christening takes place at the castle and the three pixies Knotgrass, Thistlewit, and Flittle bless the infant princess with magical gifts. Then, just before Thistlewit could present her gift, Maleficent shows up. Still disgusted by what Stefan did to her, she curses the princess to fall into a death-like sleep by pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel on her sixteenth birthday. However when Stefan begs her to spare his daughter's life, Maleficent softens and concludes that the curse can only be lifted by true love's kiss. No power on earth can change it. Maleficent also makes an indestructible thorny border wall around the Moors to not suffer by humans' access again. Stefan shuts himself behind the walls of his castle while his soldiers rode far and wide to hunt Maleficent down. He has every spinning wheel in the kingdom burned and locked away in the deepest dungeon of the castle. He also has the three pixies take Aurora into hiding. They take her to an old cottage in the woods and pose as her three human aunts.
As the years pass, Maleficent watches over the young princess and despite her initial hatred for the little "Beastie", she reluctantly takes care of her from afar when the Pixies are incapable and struggling to live like humans. In the meantime, Stefan becomes extremely darkened, further consumes by paranoia, vengeance and obsession for hunting Maleficent down. He has his blacksmiths work nonstop to produce iron armory as he knows iron is lethal to fairies. Unfortunately, Queen Leila becomes gravely ill and dies, but Stefan is so consumed by his desire to kill Maleficent that he shows no grief over his queen's death. By the time Aurora is fifteen, she finally comes in contact with Maleficent, believing she is her fairy godmother as she recalled being watched over by her all her life. Maleficent allows Aurora to spend more time in the Moors with her and the two eventually develop a mother and daughter-like relationship. After returning her home and putting her to bed, Maleficent tries to remove the curse from her herself, but she is unable to since no power on earth can lift it but true love's kiss as she mentioned before.
On the day before Aurora's sixteenth birthday, Aurora has decided to stay in the Moors with Maleficent, which she happily accepts. As Aurora returns home, she meets Prince Phillip and it instantly becomes love at first sight. Diaval sees him as the key to lifting the curse, but Maleficent disagrees as there is no such thing as true love. However, after the three fairies reveal the truth to Aurora that she is cursed, she furiously returns to her father after Maleficent admits the truth of her identity. Feeling ashamed, she decides to take the chance that true love will be her only hope and goes looking for Phillip.
Even though he is happy to see his daughter after nearly sixteen years, Stefan is still furious at the pixies because they were supposed to bring her back the day after her sixteenth birthday. He has her locked up in her room and prepares for Maleficent to arrive. As the sun begins to set, the curse of eternal slumber begins to attract Aurora. She follows a whispering voice to the castle's dungeon where all the spinning wheels in the kingdom were burnt, while Maleficent hurries to the castle with Phillip in a trance. However, her attempts to reach her are all in vain; Aurora pricks her finger on a spindle and falls into her death-like slumber. As night draws, Maleficent and Diaval sneak inside the castle with Phillip and bring him to the sleeping Aurora. She hides and watches as Phillip approaches her and leans over to romantically kiss her lips. Unfortunately, nothing happens and Aurora remains asleep. After the Pixies drag Phillip out to find someone else to kiss her, Maleficent comes out of hiding and looks upon what she has done. She was lost in hatred and revenge that she forgot about love and happiness until she met Aurora. In tears, she kisses Aurora on the forehead and bids her goodbye, but before she can even leave, a miracle happens: Aurora wakes up happy to see her fairy godmother. Maleficent's close and strong motherly love for Aurora was enough to break the curse that she herself had cast.
As the three of them attempt to flee the castle, Maleficent is trapped in an iron net by Stefan's men. Aurora tries to save her, but the castle guards overpower her and Diaval. Maleficent turns Diaval into a dragon, and he lifts the net off her and manages to fight off the guards. Aurora flees away from the orbit of skirmish and she accidentally finds Maleficent's wings in the wings room and releases them. Diaval attacks the guards, but he is eventually chained by the soldiers. Maleficent is surrounded as Stefan enters the scene. Stefan brutally beats Maleficent and taunts her. Then, after pulling out his sword, he prepares to finish her off, but just before he can impale her, Maleficent's wings reattach themselves to her after Aurora frees them. With her wings back, Maleficent is able to fly and she frees Diaval. She and Diaval easily take down Stefan's guards. Only the treacherous king is left standing. Maleficent easily overpowers Stefan and carries him onto one of the castle's towers. However, just as she is on the verge of killing him, she spares him, claiming, "It's over." However, Stefan refuses defeat and jumps on her. The two fall from the tower, but Maleficent manages to become airborne while Stefan falls to his death. With peace finally made between the two lands, Maleficent's heart gets kind and bright again. She brings down her border wall and she passes her crown on to Aurora, making her Queen of both the human and fairy kingdoms, forever unifying them, as Phillip looks on. The story ends with Maleficent happily flying through the skies with Diaval by her side.
- Angelina Jolie as Maleficent
- Elle Fanning as Aurora
- Sharlto Copley as King Stefan
- Sam Riley as Diaval
- Imelda Staunton as Knotgrass
- Juno Temple as Thistlewit
- Lesley Manville as Flittle
- Brenton Thwaites as Prince Phillip
- Kenneth Cranham as King Henry
- Hannah New as Queen Leila
- Mila Kunis as Theodora the Wicked Witch of the West
On May 12, 2009, it was revealed that Brad Bird was developing a live-action film based on Sleeping Beauty, retold from the point of view of Maleficent with Angelina Jolie starring as Maleficent. In January 2010, it was rumored that Tim Burton was to direct the film. Reports surfaced online in May 2011 stating that Burton had left the project to focus on his other upcoming projects; Disney began to look for a replacement director, with David Yates being cited as a potential candidate due to his experience with the fantasy genre, having directed the final four Harry Potter films. Linda Woolverton, who previously collaborated with Tim Burton on Alice in Wonderland, was writing the script for the movie. Angelina Jolie said in an interview that she is definitely interested in the role. Don Hahn, a producer of the movie, confirmed that Disney was developing a film about Maleficent and that it was in active preduction. On January 6, 2012, Disney announced that Robert Stromberg, the production designer for Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, was to direct the film.
Sharlto Copley (District 9) was named as the male lead for Stromberg's live-action retelling of the Sleeping Beauty tale. Heat Vision also reports that Imelda Staunton and Miranda Richardson (Harry Potter) had been cast for the film, along with Kenneth Cranham (Hot Fuzz), Sam Riley (Control), and Lesley Manville (Another Year).
According to the Hollywood Reporter's blog article, Staunton and Manville would be playing the characters of Knotgrass and Flittle, respectively, "two of the three pixies that end up taking care of Aurora." Meanwhile Super 8 starlet Elle Fanning had long been rumored as the choice to play the aforementioned Princess, and Heat Vision's report confirmed her name as officially being onboard the project. In the role of Queen Ulla, Richardson would be acting as "a Fairy Queen who is Maleficent's aunt with a dislike of her niece." Meanwhile Cranham would play the human king who plots to conquer the fairy kingdom, and Riley would portray Diaval, "a raven who changes into human form and is Maleficent's right hand." The source also mentioned Copley's gig in the lead of King Stefan, describing his role as "the half-human, half-fairy bastard son of the human king." On May 31, 2012, Deadline.com reported that Home and Away star Brenton Thwaites has been cast to the role of the charming Prince Phillip.
With a budget estimated at $180 million, filming began on June 18, 2012 in London with the first pictures from set emerging and the first official look of Jolie as Maleficent. Seven-time Academy Award winner Rick Baker designed the special makeup effects for the film. Post-production began on October 5, 2012.
The film's official's date was set for July 2, 2014, distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. Filming reportedly took place in the Buckinghamshire countryside. On September 18, 2013, the film's release date was pushed up from July 2 to May 30.
On October 10, 2013, John Lee Hancock (director of The Blind Side and Saving Mr. Banks and writer of Snow White and the Huntsman) was reported to help Stromberg with the re-shoots for the film. Joe Roth said that "the film is not in trouble. The last half is great and it looks real pretty and stuff, it's just that the beginning needs some tweaking. That's all." Hancock, who just finished overseeing the final post-production stages of Saving Mr. Banks, was approached by Roth, who the both of them had previously worked together on Snow White and the Huntsman. "We asked him to be on set," producer Joe Roth said of Hancock. "He's not directing. He wrote pages, and I hired a first-time director, and it's good to have him on set." Roth was asked why a "film of this magnitude was entrusted to a novice director", and he noted that Stromberg won Oscars for production design on Alice in Wonderland and Avatar. "The movie is gorgeous to look at, and the last 75 minutes (1hr 25min) are really entertaining," he says. The issue is the opening, which is being reshot over eight days." The new scenes did not involve Jolie, as she was in Australia prepping to direct her World War II drama Unbroken.
The film received mixed reviews from critics, who praised Angelina Jolie's performance and the visual effects, but criticized its script. As of August 31, 2019, the film holds a 53% rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 264 reviews, with an average score of 5.73/10. The site's consensus reads, "Angelina Jolie's magnetic performance outshines Maleficent's dazzling special effects; unfortunately, the movie around them fails to justify all that impressive effort." On Metacritic, the film has a rating of 56 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". CinemaScore gave the film an "A" rating on an A+ to F scale, based on polls conducted among audiences on its opening Friday.
Kate Taylor of The Globe and Mail was very positive about the film, writing that "[it] surprises not for its baroque visions of a colourful woodland enlivened by joyous fairies and a forbidding castle peopled by unhappy humans, but rather for the thematic richness of its story gloriously personified by Angelina Jolie in the title role." While criticizing the overuse of CGI and 3D effects, she particularly praised the positive message of the film and Jolie's performance. She concluded her review that "Long live the feminist revisionist backstory." On the contrary, Keith Staskiewicz, writing for the Entertainment Weekly, awarded the film a "B-" and wrote that "there's a lot of levitating cliffs and odd flora. But despite their bleeding-edge digital design, the backgrounds have all the depth of the old matte-painted backgrounds of the analog days," which made the film "[feel] classical in nature." She further commented that "The characters are boiled down to their essentials, the humor is timelessly broad." Michael Phillips of Chicago Tribune gave the film two and a half stars, commenting that the recent "formula" that "a new angle on a well-known fairy tale appears in the light" "works" with Maleficent. He also said that the film "is all about second thoughts", as Maleficent "spends much of the film as Aurora's conflicted fairy godmother." Phillips particularly praised Jolie and Elle Fanning's acting, Rick Baker's makeup (for Jolie's "angular, serrated look"), but criticized James Newton Howard's "sloshy, pushy" musical score.
Angelina Jolie's performance in the film has been repeatedly singled out for praise by critics. Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph wrote, "This Disney reimagining of Sleeping Beauty lacks true enchantment, but Angelina Jolie saves the day." Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a positive review, writing "This is Jolie's film because of the Maleficent she makes. Everyone else, even Aurora, fades in her presence." Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post awarded the film three-and-a-half out of four stars, commenting that "Still, for all its limitations, Maleficent manages to be improbably entertaining to watch, due solely to its title character." Writing for Roger Ebert's website, Matt Zoller Seitz awarded Maleficent three out of four stars, praising the themes of the film and the acting of Jolie. Seitz also called the scene in which Maleficent discovers the loss of her wings "the most traumatizing image I've seen in a Hollywood fairy tale since the Christ-like sacrifice of Aslan in 2005's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." The review on The Globe and Mail further explained that "in the simple context of a fairy tale, Jolie does make both the terrifying horned creature and her gradual awakening heartfelt," extolling the "emotional richness" behind her physical acts. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times felt more negatively, assigning it a D. Although Roeper praised the visuals, he criticized the acting and writing, stating that "the story itself might well put you into the same type of coma that befalls the heroine."
Maleficent received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design for Anna B. Sheppard, becoming Disney's first live-action adaptation to receive a nomination, although it lost its win on the Best Costume Design category to Wes Anderson's comedy-drama film, The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Trailers and Clips
Behind the Scenes
- Jude Law was considered to play King Stefan before Sharlto Copley was cast.
- Emma Thompson and Judi Dench were considered for the roles of the pixies.
- Logan Marshall-Green, George Blagden, Gael García Bernal, and Jim Sturgess were considered for the role of Diaval, that eventually went to Sam Riley.
- The film had the largest budget ever for a first time director, Robert Stromberg, surpassing another Disney film, Tron: Legacy (2010).
- This is the first of many live-action adaptations of classic Disney animated films released in the 21st century (Pete's Dragon doesn't count as it is considered an adaptation of a live-action movie).
- The film's release date, May 30, 2014, was the day of the 55th anniversary of Sleeping Beauty.
- It is revealed that Maleficent used to have wings until they were stolen from her in a ruthless betrayal.
- This is the second movie to have the cur-short Roth Films logo and the Disney (closing) logo at the end (after the closing credits). The first was Oz the Great and Powerful.
- Angelina Jolie's daughter, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, was chosen to play the younger Aurora because she was the only child that wasn't afraid of her own mother in costume, since other kids in casting would run away in fear of Angelina's appearance.
- According to DigitalSpy website, Angelina Jolie's adopted children Pax and Zahra also made appearances in the movie as well as extras.
- To promote the film, Walt Disney Home Entertainment released a limited edition collection of Disney Blu-rays to selected UK stores nationwide on June 2. This limited collection includes 24 of Disney's movies, each with cover art displaying the movie's villain. The 24 films in the collection are: The Jungle Book, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Aladdin, Mulan, Wreck-It Ralph, Pinocchio, Tangled, Alice in Wonderland, The Princess and the Frog, Lady and the Tramp, Pocahontas, Fantasia, The Emperor's New Groove, Hercules, Robin Hood, The Black Cauldron, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Great Mouse Detective, Enchanted, Oz the Great and Powerful, and the live-action adaptation of 101 Dalmatians.
- It is revealed in the novelization that Maleficent's parents were named Hermia and Lysander; that her parents were killed by humans when she was a baby.
- This is the first Disney movie to only show the studio's logo (In the opening varient), in the beginning, and the main title and the closing credits (Including the cut-short Roth Films logo and the Disney [Closing] logo) at the end.
- Maleficent is somewhat similar to Frozen in that both of the villains in the source material are turned into heroines and both have a twist of "True Love" which were both not romantic as expected. Both of the heroines are at one point also betrayed by those who were they were seemingly in love with.
- This film is also similar to the Broadway musical Wicked in that both tell the villains of the source material that the story is based backstory and how they came to be (Elphaba for Wicked and Maleficent for Maleficent) making them more sympathetic and likable, and one particular good man is portrayed as the main villain, yet has a good public image (The Wizard of Oz for Wicked and King Stefan for Maleficent).
- This was the second Disney live-action remake to get a sequel. The first being 101 Dalmatians.
- According to the development documentary for the 2014 Maleficent film, "From Fairy Tale to Feature Film", Maleficent being depicted as good and sympathetic had been screenwriter Linda Woolverton's idea, and Angelina Jolie attempted to reign in on Woolverton's attempts at making Maleficent good and remind her that Maleficent is supposed to be a villain.