Well, no, not really. Maleficent is what they in film land like to call a “reimagining.” As those familiar with the titular antagonist will know, this is a remake – of sorts – of Sleeping Beauty, and also sort of a prequel. The key thing is that here the story is told mainly from the perspective of Maleficent herself, here played by Angelina Jolie.
A good idea? Yes. Original? Not entirely. Rumour has it that a similar idea was pitched a few years back, by the name of Nottingham. The script followed none other than the wicked sheriff of said region, apparently investigating a string of murders against the backdrop of the Robin Hood universe. This sounds like it had a lot of promise, but, unfortunately, long-time Hollywood-ers had other ideas. It seems odd that more time spent in the industry seems to mean more allegiance to financially foolproof, diminished-creativity thinking rather than less. But, as the story goes, Ridley Scott himself vetoed most of the innovative material and gradually turned the script into 2003’s Robin Hood, featuring Russell Crowe following pretty much the original legend, only with some gloomier war material added for contemporary tonal relevance and all the random nonsense from the Kevin Costner outing removed.
Now we’re getting off topic, but the point stands: once in a while an original idea comes along and manages to make it through the industry mincing machine. This can be especially powerful when it’s based around a classic, immortal tale and backed by the major studios – which is why it’s such a shame that the fabled Nottingham never appeared. What’s more, it’s a directorial debut. This is exciting stuff for all concerned.
In essence, then, this is an origin story for an antagonist, peeling away the straightforward film of pure evil that shrouds her and turning her into a complex, three-dimensional character. Sure, this sort of thing has been done before, but not with a Disney baddie. Next we’ll have a tale of the turbulent childhood and frustrated political career of a misunderstood, seven-foot Arab named Jafar.
As is common with any kind of fantasy film, particularly these days, Maleficent is set to be visually impressive. The trailer shows a thorny forest summoned out of the ground, floaty, ethereal fairy-type creatures reminiscent of Avatar (please note, that was not a compliment to the latter film) and plenty of epic blue screen (or green? I don’t actually know the difference) landscape shots. This, however, is unlikely to be masking any other shortcomings. This looks like an interesting film, a thoughtful take on an old tale and something that, creativity-wise, we could do with seeing more often in our big-budget efforts from across the pond.