Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a powerful fairy who lives in a magical forest called the Moors, next to a human kingdom. As a child, she meets and falls in love with a peasant boy named Stefan (Michael Higgins). On her 16th birthday, she is kissed by Stefan (Jackson Bews). He calls it true love’s kiss. But with time they grow apart. He wants to be King someday, and she is the Protector of the Moors.

King Henry (Kenneth Graham) tries to conquer the Moors and Maleficent mortally wounds him, forcing him to retreat. On his deathbed, he declares that whoever kills Maleficent will be king and marry his daughter. Stefan (Charlto Copley now) meets Maleficent in the Moors and drugs her, but he can’t bring himself to kill her, so he amputates her wings and gives them to Henry as proof of her death. The King dies and Stefan is made King. Maleficent turns a raven named Diaval (Sam Riley) into a human. He promises to serve her by bringing her news of the human kingdom. Learning why her wings were cut off, she turns bitter and dark, and so does the Moors.

King Stefan’s daughter Aurora is being christened. Maleficent crashes the party and curses the little princess. When she turns 16, she will prick her finger on a spinning-wheel spindle and fall into eternal sleep. Only true love’s kiss can wake her. Stefan orders three pixies (Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville) to hide and protect Aurora (Vivienne Jolie-Pitt) in the woods until her 16th birthday, and he smashes every spinning wheel in the kingdom, hiding the pieces in the dungeon. Stefan sends his armies to kill Maleficent, but she surrounds the Moors with a wall of thorns. Stefan gradually loses his sanity. Maleficent and Diaval watch Aurora grow from afar and secretly infiltrate the pixie’s care. Aurora (Elle Fanning now) calls Maleficent her fairy godmother, and Maleficent gradually begins to regret that her curse is unbreakable. Aurora meets the young prince Phillip in the forest.

On the day before Aurora’s 16th birthday, Aurora obtains Maleficent’s permission to live on the Moors. The pixies tell her the truth and she confronts Maleficent and returns to her father’s castle. Stefan locks her up but she is drawn to the dungeon and pricks her finger on a spindle. She falls into a deep sleep. Maleficent abducts Phillip and infiltrates the castle. The pixies urge Phillip to kiss Aurora, but she does not wake. Maleficent, in tears, apologizes to the sleeping princess and kisses her on the forehead. This is true love’s kiss and she awakes.

Maleficent and Aurora try to leave the castle, but Stefan and his guards ambush them. Maleficent transforms Diaval into a great dragon, but both are subdued with iron chains. Aurora finds Maleficent’s wings in a cage and frees them. They fly to Maleficent and reattach themselves, but Stefan continues to fight. She carries him to the top of the highest tower to leave him there, but he drags her over the edge. She flies away but he falls to his death. Maleficent returns to the Moors and restores them to their former beauty, as Aurora is crowned Queen of the Moors, uniting the two kingdoms. Phillip comes to visit.

The film was directed by Robert Stromberg from a screenplay by Linda Woolverton, based on the fairy tale made popular by Disney animation. The film received mixed reviews from critics but it was a triumph at the box-office, often said to be Angelina Jolie’s best performance. It was nominated for the costume award at the Oscars, probably because of Jolie’s look, created by Rick Baker, based partly on Lada Gaga. The character was called Carabosse in Tchaikovsky’s ballet. Sharlto Copley is a versatile South African actor who appeared in many of Neill Blomkamp’s films and in Ridley Scott’s A-Team.

Child actress Vivienne Jolie-Pitt is the daughter of Angeline Jolie and Brad Pitt and was picked because she was the only child not terrified by Jolie in costume. Jolie still has the horns. She tested her laughs in front of her children and they picked the most terrifying. She had always been fascinated by Maleficent in the Disney animation and became a producer partly to make sure she got the role. No-one even considered making the film without her, and once she was cast, the studio decided to do a live-action film instead of an animated one.  She did all her own stunts.

The actresses playing the pixies were basically taught how to fly by Cirque de Soleil. Every actor was chosen because of their resemblance to the animated character. Dialogue in the christening scene was, on Jolie’s insistence, identical to that in the original. The song “Once upon a dream” is from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. There was a great deal of discussion about the removal of Maleficent’s wings being a metaphor for rape, but it is in fact an example of female mutilation, as Jolie pointed out. The movie is simply gorgeous, including the enchanted forest and its denizens, the dragon, the castle, Elle Fanning, and Angelina Jolie. Her performance is riveting.

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