“Let’s take an old tale and tell it anew.”
So begins Maleficent, a fractured fairy tale that addresses a surprising number of issues while still being thoroughly entertaining.
The closest allegory to sexual assault that I have ever seen in a Disney movie comes early in the film, when the peasant Stefan drugs his childhood friend Maleficent and removes the beautiful wings she prizes so much. He directly steals her bodily agency for his own status. When she wakes up, her confusion melting into pain, rage, and horror is tough to watch.
Wicked-ish storyline aside, a lot of the problematic factors in the fairy tale were addressed and even fixed in the film. For example, Phillip has a lot of reservations about kissing the unconscious girl he met earlier that day in the woods, and only does so when he is told it’s the way to break the curse on her. No pressure. When his kiss fails, it is Maleficent’s that saves Aurora. Phillip is still around for Aurora at the end of the film, but you get the idea that they’re taking it slow. The film does not end with a kiss, but rather with Aurora’s coronation as queen.
The movie isn’t over when Maleficent saves Aurora. Aurora returns the favor by freeing her beloved “fairy godmother’s” wings and returning them to their rightful owner. A traumatic event can destroy you, but the people you love can help to make you whole again.
It’s a fantastic fairy tale for little girls, as well as a cautionary tale. Yes, the “true love” being non-romantic love was just done in Frozen, but I don’t think hammering the message through again hurts us any.
All in all, I would definitely recommend Maleficent to all but the very very young fairy tale fan in your life. Four out of five involuntary shapeshifters.