My favourite Disney villain as a child was far and away Maleficent. The villain of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, there was always something about her – her dignity, her grace, her sly-sense of humour – this was a woman without self-doubt or pity who enjoyed her role as “Mistress of all Evil.” It seems I wasn’t the only child intrigued by her, since Angelina Jolie was determined to create a live-action retelling, Malificent.
I think a good Rorschach test for this movie is whether you enjoyed the character in the original 1959 film. I loved her for her unabashed revelry in villany – a rarity in a society which tells women that only nice, polite women can be lovable – she far outshone the bland Aurora and Aurora’s forgettable mother, Queen Leah.
Unfortunately, this movie takes a good idea (focusing on Maleficent) and makes her a far more boring character. Seeing as it’s a Disney movie, they shied away from making a more difficult movie about a woman who didn’t have to be innately good and misunderstood – which leads to an incredibly bland main character and spoils what I loved about Malificent in the first place. There’s been a lot of discussion about the undertones of sexual assault in the early sequences between Malificent and Aurora’s father King Stefan (Sharlto Copley) -and by far, this is the most powerful scene in the movie, leading to the familiar scene of Aurora’s christening – playing out with new undertones. If only the movie had spent more time with this dynamic and developed in a bit better – as these are the scenes of a more interesting movie, a movie which allowed Malificent to get angry and stay vengeful, rather than rushing through to get to battle scenes and her redemption.
The only character who fails better through a redo is Aurora (Elle Fanning), who goes from a slightly boring heroine to a sweet girl interested in environmental conservation. Sharlto Copley’s Stefan is given some early weight, and is worthy of playing a man willing to sacrifice love to ambition, but the movie clearly doesn’t know what to do with him after Aurora is born, Hannah New is given the short shrift in the role of Aurora’s mother and Brenton Thwaites is horribly miscast in the glorified cameo role of Prince Philip. Philip was the first prince in Disney history to be given a name and semblance of a personality (named after the young husband of a certain Queen Elizabeth) and functioned quite effectively as Sleeping Beauty‘s comic relief – whether solemnly informing his father that of course he could marry a peasant girl, “it is the fourteenth century!” and with his horse, a carrot-loving comic predecessor to Tangled‘s Maximus. I missed that energy, even if this prince was smart enough to realise that permission is fairly essential for kissing!
There’s the seeds of a really good, interesting movie in here. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to what I was hoping for, but if you’re coming in without strong feelings towards this classic Disney villain, you’ll probably enjoy it more than I did!
Creme de Menthe Swiss Roll (adapted from Martha Stewart)
3 large eggs
2 egg yolks from large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon black food colouring
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour (for instructions on making cake flour)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Bake at 450F for about 6 minutes – until it’s springy to the touch. Immediately, while still warm, roll the cake (using a piece of kitchen towel to keep the layers separate) and let it begin to cool in the rolled formation.
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons creme de menthe
1 1/4 cup heavy cream