This is NOT Maleficent1/10
I was genuinely excited to hear that Disney was going to make a film about Maleficent, my favorite Disney villain of all time. I was interested in knowing the 'why' behind her actions in Sleeping Beauty, since we never really got to see that. I will say that the cinematography is amazing. I will also say that while Angelina Jolie was not my first choice, she had the look, her costume was spot-on, and there are moments where you can see where she is at least trying to play this role correctly (and really, who could replace Eleanor Audley?). But one thing I've noticed over the past 10-15 years is that animation and design seem to be their main focus, rather than story or character development. In the movie, Maleficent's back story was incredibly rushed. So much for going into depth on why Maleficent is the way she is.
This movie does not explain why Maleficent is the way she is. Disney is showing us a completely different character while giving her the same name as Disney's most iconic villain. Now they're trying to say that Maleficent is a misunderstood character who becomes evil. But that never happens. She becomes angry and bitter, but not evil. Maleficent in this movie is not even a misunderstood, sympathetic character. She is a total victim who never becomes evil at all.
Oh, she does do one evil thing; she does still curse King Stefan's baby out of revenge. And she has second thoughts about it two seconds afterward. See? Not evil at all. And while I'm at it, I should mention my distaste for the way she cursed Aurora: Disney completely lowered the stakes by having Maleficent utter the words "sleep-like death" and be the one to offer the cure of True Love's kiss. No! It's MERRYWEATHER that counters the DEATH curse in order to save Aurora's life! Oh, Maleficent may say later that she doesn't believe True Love exists, but that's a matter of opinion isn't it? Again, LOWERS THE STAKES.
And what was Linda Woolverton thinking when she took King Stefan and the three fairies completely out of character and gives them a complete 180 in order to make Maleficent look good? If you're going to show us the point of view of a famous villain, it's okay to give them layers and gray areas in order to make them more interesting and multi- dimensional, even to show they weren't always evil. But NOT to say they were never evil at all; that just completely defeats the point of the character! Same with the good guys; they may have their own flaws, show that they have their own prejudices, or that everything they did wasn't perfect. But NOT to say "the good guys were really EVIL OR STUPID!"
The fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather (I refuse to call them by their new names) are NOTHING like they were in Sleeping Beauty, and this is a big deal. In Sleeping Beauty, say what you will about their flaws but their ultimate motivation was keeping Aurora SAFE. At least they tried, even if they failed! Maleficent (2014) portrays them as nothing more than stupid buffoons who only care about saving their own skins. Aurora was just a means to an end for them; they have no relationship with her like they do in the original. The movie also took away their own personalities, so they are no different from each other. I can't even keep track of which fairy has which name! Watching them on screen with everything they say or do was as cringe worthy as I expected it to be.
King Stefan has to be one of worst written villains I have seen in a while. He has no real motivation for what he does; we see him as having nothing in the beginning, and then the movie glosses over his relationship with Maleficent in order to "get to the good part" where he steals her wings in order to be king. After that, he wages war on Maleficent for cursing his daughter, and yet he only looks at Aurora as afterthought property. Why is he even after Maleficent then? What else has she done to him other than cursing his daughter?
Elle Fanning as Aurora was very impressive. I do think she gave the character more of a personality that was lacking in the original, and she stole the film in every scene she was in. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to save the movie, nor were Maleficent's interactions with Diaval, as enjoyable as they were.
And of course, Maleficent does not turn into a dragon in this movie. I have to ask; why, Disney? You knew how loved of a villain Maleficent is, and her being a dragon is one of the many reasons why. Also, we live in an age where technology and special effects are abundant; you didn't use the opportunity to see how your most iconic villain looks as a dragon when done with live-action CGI? Why would you waste a perfectly good opportunity like that? Besides the fact that Maleficent is not evil in this film, she also is very wimpy and pathetic. She can't do ANYTHING. When we see her fight an army at the beginning, all she does is fly around and slap a few soldiers with her wings. The tree monsters did most of her fighting for her. In Sleeping Beauty, she could transport herself to another place in a matter of seconds, she could shoot lightning from her staff, and she could transform into another form other than her own. She didn't do any of that in this movie.
Just like with Alice in Wonderland, Disney wasted a perfectly good opportunity to effectively adapt their animated work to the live-action screen. Maleficent may not be the absolute worst movie I've seen, but it's definitely in my bottom list now.