Disney’s Frozen is an Oscar-winning, billion dollar-grossing fairy tale success story for the company, having even outperformed the studio’s recent live-action (Johnny Depp-anchored) tentpoles like Alice in Wonderland and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides at the global box office. However, for its next foray into the world of princesses and magic, the Mouse House is returning to the world of Sleeping Beauty (previously depicted in animated form in 1959) – this time, spun from the perspective of its villain, in the live-action fantasy Maleficent.
Maleficent was directed by Robert Stromberg (art director on Oz the Great and Powerful), based on a screenplay written by Linda Woolverton (who also penned Alice in Wonderland and the upcoming sequel). It features a leading turn by Angelina Jolie as the wingless dark fairy who – in traditional versions of the centuries-old story – heartlessly curses the young Princess Aurora to death-like sleep.
Up to now, the film has been sold based on the strength of its leading lady – Jolie very much looks perfect in the role (and seems to be having a lot of fun with it) – in addition to the feature’s use of modern CGI-effects to recreate iconography from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty animated musical, as well as Lana Del Ray’s brooding rendition of the film’s classic tune “Once Upon a Dream”.
However, the new international trailer (see above) – a good chunk of which is previously-unreleased footage – goes further with its examination of the film’s tragedy elements, by teasing that over the years after issuing her curse Maleficent forms a bond with the young Aurora (Elle Fanning) – painting the sorceress in a more sympathetic light, even before we’re given the specifics about her tragic backstory (and the events that permanently damaged her spirit).
In terms of visuals, Maleficent seems to vary in quality from questionable (the tiny CGI fairy-ification of actresses like Imelda Staunton and Juno Temple) to quite gorgeous (the Lord of the Rings-esque forest creatures and sprites reminiscent of Stromberg’s work on Avatar). On the whole, though, it looks good.
Fortunately, the flawed storybook aesthetic in this film appears to be married to a story that, as more and more layers are peeled back, seems all the more interesting – and not just “Wicked retold with a character owned by Disney,” as the original premise seemed to indicate. Likewise, Woolverton’s script here seems more cohesive thematically-speaking than her work on Alice in Wonderland; that’s an encouraging sign, as far as the hope goes that Maleficent will offer more than eye candy to appreciate.
Maleficent opens in U.S. theaters on May 30th, 2014.