Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Stromberg|
|Produced by||Joe Roth|
|Screenplay by||Linda Woolverton|
|Narrated by||Janet McTeer|
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Studios
|Running time||97 minutes|
Maleficent (// or //) is a 2014 American fantasy film directed by Robert Stromberg from a screenplay by Linda Woolverton. Starring Angelina Jolie as the eponymous Disney villainess character, the film is a live-action re-imagining of Walt Disney's 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty, and portrays the story from the perspective of the antagonist, Maleficent.
Principal photography took place between June and October 2012. The film premiered at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood on May 28, 2014, and was released in the United Kingdom that same day. It was released by Walt Disney Pictures in the U.S. on May 30, 2014 in the Disney Digital 3D, RealD 3D, and IMAX 3D formats, as well as in conventional theaters. The film was met with mixed reviews from critics, but was a commercial success, having grossed over $747 million worldwide.
An elderly narrator tells the story of Maleficent, a very strong and powerful faerie living in the Moors, a magical realm bordering a human kingdom. As a young girl, she falls in love with a human peasant boy named Stefan, but his mutual affection for Maleficent is overshadowed by his ambition to become king. As they grow older, Stefan stops seeing Maleficent. After Maleficent defeats the current king in battle when he attempts to invade the Moors, he offers to name whoever kills her as his successor. Stefan overhears this, goes to see Maleficent and deceives her into thinking that he has come to warn her of the king's plot. He drugs her and attempts to kill her, but cannot bring himself to do so. Instead, he burns off her wings using iron (iron is lethal to faeries) and presents them to the king as proof of her death. Maleficent rescues a raven named Diaval to serve as her informant and he reports to her that Stefan has been crowned king. The realization that Stefan betrayed her to gain the throne devastates Maleficent and in retaliation, she declares herself queen of the Moors, forming a dark oppressive kingdom with Diaval as her one companion and confidant.
Some time later, Diaval informs Maleficent that King Stefan is hosting a christening for his newborn daughter, Aurora. Bent on revenge, Maleficent arrives uninvited and curses the newborn princess: on her sixteenth birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, which will cause her to fall into a death-like sleep. After Stefan is forced by Maleficent to beg for his daughter, she offers a caveat: the curse can be broken by true love's kiss. Terrified of Maleficent's vengeance, Stefan sends Aurora to live with three pixies until the day after her sixteenth birthday, while he destroys and burns all the spinning wheels in the kingdom and hides them in the deepest dungeon in the castle. He sends out his armies to find and kill Maleficent, but she surrounds his kingdom with an impenetrable wall of thorns.
Despite her initial dislike for Princess Aurora, Maleficent begins to care about the girl when the neglectful pixies fail to do so. After a brief meeting with the young Aurora, Maleficent watches over her from afar. When Aurora is 15, she meets Maleficent for the first time and calls her her "faerie godmother", as she recalled being watched over by her all her life. Realizing she has grown fond of the princess, Maleficent attempts to revoke the curse, but cannot as she herself had declared that "no power on Earth can change it". Aurora later meets Prince Phillip, and the two are smitten with each other, but have little opportunity to build a relationship. On the day before Aurora's 16th birthday, Maleficent, hoping to avoid the curse, allows the girl to move to the Moors, far away from any spindles. The pixies, however, inadvertently tell Aurora of her parentage and of Maleficent's true identity, and a furious Aurora runs away to her father.
Stefan brusquely locks Aurora away for safekeeping. She is drawn by the curse itself to the dungeon, where it assembles a spinning wheel. Aurora pricks her finger and falls asleep. Intent on saving her, Maleficent abducts Phillip and infiltrates Stefan's castle to have him kiss Aurora and break the curse. However, Phillip's romantic kiss has no effect, as the two are not yet truly in love. Maleficent apologizes to Aurora and swears no harm will come to her, kissing her forehead. This breaks the curse and causes Aurora to awaken, as Maleficent's motherly concern for Aurora constitutes "true love." Aurora forgives her and they attempt to flee the castle, but Maleficent is trapped in an iron net and attacked by Stefan and his guards. Maleficent transforms Diaval into a dragon and he lifts the net off her, but is driven back by the soldiers. Stefan beats Maleficent and taunts her, but before he can kill her, her wings, freed from his chamber by Aurora, fly back to her and reattach themselves. With her wings back, Maleficent overpowers Stefan and carries him onto a tower, but cannot bring herself to kill him, instead declaring their feud over. Stefan attempts once more to kill her, but plummets off the tower to his death.
Soon after, Aurora is crowned queen of the human and faerie realms by Maleficent, forever unifying the two kingdoms, with Phillip at her side. The narrator then reveals her own identity as "the one they called the Sleeping Beauty".
- Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, the queen fairy of the Moors who casts a death-like sleep curse on Princess Aurora
- Elle Fanning as Princess Aurora, daughter of King Stefan and princess of the human kingdom
- Sharlto Copley as King Stefan, ruler of the human kingdom and Aurora's father
- Michael Higgins as young Stefan
- Sam Riley as Diaval, a raven shapeshifter and Maleficent's confidant.
- Imelda Staunton as Knotgrass, a pink pixie charged with raising Aurora in secret until her 16th birthday.
- Juno Temple as Thistlewit, a green pixie charged with raising Aurora in secret until her 16th birthday.
- Lesley Manville as Flittle, a blue pixie charged with raising Aurora in secret until her 16th birthday.
- Brenton Thwaites as Phillip, a young prince who falls in love with Aurora while traveling through the forest.
- Kenneth Cranham as King Henry, a monarch determined to conquer the forest realm.
- Hannah New as Queen Leila, King Henry's daughter who marries Stefan, and Aurora's mother.
Angelina Jolie had long been attached to the project since May 2011, when Tim Burton, who had tentatively planned to direct, chose not to pursue it. Linda Woolverton was commissioned to write the script for the film. On January 6, 2012, Disney announced that Robert Stromberg, the production designer of Alice in Wonderland, and Oz the Great and Powerful, would direct the film. Joe Roth, Don Hahn, and Richard D. Zanuck were hired as producers, although Zanuck died later that year. Roth said the film would not have been made if Angelina Jolie had not agreed to take the title role: "She seemed like the only person who could play the part. There was no point in making the movie if it wasn't her."
In March 2012, Elle Fanning was reported to be in talks for the role of Princess Aurora. Her casting was officially announced in May 2012, along with Sharlto Copley as the male lead, Stefan, then described as the half-human, half-fairy son of a human king, along with Imelda Staunton; Miranda Richardson as Queen Ulla, then described as a fairy queen who is Maleficent's aunt with a dislike of her niece; Kenneth Cranham as a king; Sam Riley as Diaval, a raven who changes into human form and is Maleficent's right hand; and Lesley Manville.
Director Stromberg highlighted the "wonderful" contrast between the two lead actresses, Elle Fanning and Angelina Jolie, calling the character of Aurora the "beacon of light" that he was looking forward to blending with the darkness of Maleficent.
Linda Woolverton's screenplay went through at least 15 versions as the film progressed in the production. Director Robert Stromberg said: "I met many times with Linda Woolverton, the writer. We did lots of roundtable discussions and sort of cut out the fat as much as we could and sort of purified the storyline as much as we could (...)" In some earlier versions of the story, Stefan was the half-human, half-fairy bastard son of King Henry. The version of the screenplay which went into shooting originally included two characters called Queen Ulla and King Kinloch, the fairy queen and the fairy king of the Moors, and the aunt and uncle of Maleficent. Miranda Richardson and Peter Capaldi were cast and shot the Queen Ulla and King Kinloch scenes, but they were cut in the editing process together with more than 15 minutes of the first act of the film. Stromberg said: "We spent a bit more time originally in the fairy world before we got into the human side of things (...) we wanted to get it [the film] under two hours. So we cut about fifteen minutes out of the first act, and then that had to be seamed together with some pretty basic reshoots."
Stromberg later claimed in an interview that he employed an "age-old" emotional storytelling for the film and called it "the biggest thrill" against all technology advances. "And the way we play with that is we have somebody who's perhaps in love but betrayed and doesn't believe that true love exists. So the moral to it is we can all feel dark ourselves but not to lose hope because there is light in places where we might not be expecting," he explained.
With a budget estimated at $130–200 million, principal photography began on June 18, 2012 in London with the first pictures from set emerging and the first official look of Jolie as Maleficent. Rick Baker designed the special makeup effects for the film. Post-production began on October 5, 2012. Some filming took place in the Buckinghamshire countryside.
John Lee Hancock assisted Stromberg with re-shoots for the film. Hancock, who had just finished overseeing the final post-production stages of Saving Mr. Banks, was approached by Roth, with whom both had worked on Snow White and the Huntsman. Roth said: "He's not directing. He wrote pages, and I hired a first-time director, and it's good to have him on set." Roth was asked why a "film of this magnitude was entrusted to a novice director", and he noted that Stromberg won Academy Awards for production design on Avatar and Alice in Wonderland. Roth said: "The movie is gorgeous to look at, and the last 75 minutes are really entertaining. The issue is the opening, which is being re-shot over eight days."
As a previous production designer, Stromberg sought to balance the use of practical and computer-generated effects. For example, while Maleficent's horns were created by makeup artist Rick Baker, Digital Domain took facial capture of Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, and Juno Temple for the three pixies to be generated with high authenticity with the help of special rigging by Disney Research in Zurich. For the visuals, Stromberg wanted to make it "a bit more grounded" and "not too surreal" because it could be distracting from the simplicity of the story. He also regretted not employing bigger sets and allowing actors to work in a more tangible environment, on "real sets with real lights".
James Newton Howard was hired to score the film in October 2012. On January 23, 2014, it was announced that recording artist Lana Del Rey would be covering the song "Once Upon a Dream", from the 1959 film Sleeping Beauty as the title song for Maleficent. Del Rey was handpicked by Angelina Jolie to perform the song. The single was released on January 26 and was made available for free for a limited time through Google Play.
|Maleficent (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Film score by James Newton Howard|
|Released||May 27, 2014|
|Recorded||Abbey Road Studios|
All music composed by James Newton Howard (Tracks 1–22).
|Maleficent (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|2.||"Welcome to the Moors"||1:05|
|4.||"Battle of the Moors"||4:58|
|5.||"Three Peasant Women"||1:04|
|7.||"Aurora and the Fawn"||2:28|
|10.||"The Spindle's Power"||4:35|
|11.||"You Could Live Here Now"||2:26|
|12.||"Path of Destruction"||1:47|
|13.||"Aurora in Faerieland"||4:41|
|14.||"The Wall Defends Itself"||1:06|
|15.||"The Curse Won't Reverse"||1:21|
|16.||"Are You Maleficent?"||2:10|
|17.||"The Army Dances"||1:28|
|19.||"The Iron Gauntlet"||1:35|
|20.||"True Love's Kiss"||2:33|
|21.||"Maleficent Is Captured"||7:42|
|22.||"The Queen of Faerieland"||3:25|
|23.||"Once Upon a Dream"||Jack Lawrence, Sammy Fain||Lana Del Rey||3:20|
The film was originally slated for a March 2014 release, before it was changed to July 2, 2014. On September 18, 2013, the film's release date was bumped up from July 2, 2014 to May 30, due to Pixar's The Good Dinosaur having production problems and delays. In the UK, the film was released on May 28.
On August 10, 2013, as part of the live action motion picture panel of the 2013 Disney D23 Expo in the Anaheim Convention Center at Anaheim, California, Disney unveiled its first look of Maleficent by revealing the new logo of the film's title and one-minute clip from the film. Angelina Jolie made a surprise visit to the expo and talked with the attendees about her fascination with Disney's Sleeping Beauty as a child, her working experience with the filmmakers on the film, and her love of Disney. She also remarked on how she scared little girls when she was in costume, makeup, and acting during shooting; this led to the decision of hiring her and Brad Pitt's daughter, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, for the role of the young Princess Aurora, since she would not be scared of her own mother during principal photography.
Walt Disney Pictures released the teaser poster for Maleficent on November 12, 2013, featuring Jolie in costume and makeup, akin to the character's depiction in the original film. The first trailer was released the following day, on November 13. The first teaser trailer was attached to Thor: The Dark World, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Frozen, and Vampire Academy: Blood Sisters. Two more trailers were released in January 2014, revealing Maleficent's appearance. A third trailer featured Lana Del Rey singing "Once Upon a Dream". The final trailer was released on March 18, 2014. Starting April 18, 2014, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney California Adventure previewed the film inside the ABC Sound Studio and It's Tough to Be a Bug! theaters, respectively. Disney Infinity 2.0 will feature Maleficent as a playable figure utilizing the look from the movie.
Maleficent has earned $237,841,302 in North America as of August 24, 2014, and an estimated $510,000,000 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $747,841,302. Worldwide, in its opening weekend, the film earned $175.5 million, $9 million of which was from IMAX locations. It is also the biggest debut among films starring Angelina Jolie, and the actress' highest grossing film of all-time worldwide, as well as the second highest-grossing 2014 film (behind Transformers: Age of Extinction), and the 15th film distributed by Disney to surpass the $700 million mark at the worldwide box office.
In North America, Maleficent earned $4.2 million in Thursday night showings, surpassing the midnight or late-night grosses of previous live-action fantasy films, Alice in Wonderland, Oz the Great and Powerful and Snow White and the Huntsman. By the end of its opening day (including late-night Thursday earnings), the film earned $24.3 million, similar to Oz, but ahead of Snow White and the Huntsman and behind Alice. Maleficent finished its debut weekend at first place with $69.4 million ($6.7 million of which was earned from IMAX locations and 35% of which was earned from 3D showings), which exceeded Disney's expectations of a $60 million opening and making it the largest opening weekend performance for Jolie (a record previously held by her 2008 film Wanted), as well as the third highest opening weekend for a solo female star (behind the first two films in The Hunger Games series). Disney reported that 46% of ticket buyers in Thursday previews were male, while weekend reports said family audiences accounted for 45% of the film's total audience, and couples and teens accounted for 38% and 18% respectively. Female audiences and moviegoers over 25 years old held respective proportions of 60% and 51%. Dave Hollis, head of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, attributed this success to "some momentum and great word-of-mouth." During its first week, the film earned a total of $93.8 million, ahead of Snow White yet behind Oz and Alice. On its second weekend, Maleficent dropped by 50% to $34.3 million, finishing in second place. It experienced a smaller second-weekend drop than Snow White, yet still bigger than Oz and Alice. In North America, Maleficent is the fifth highest-grossing 2014 film.
Outside North America
Maleficent opened outside North America on the same weekend as North America, earning $20.1 million from 35 territories in its first two days (May 28–29, 2014). During its opening weekend, the film topped the box office with $106.1 million from 47 territories. Its largest opening weekends were in China ($22.2 million), Mexico ($14.0 million) and Russia and the CIS ($13.0 million). On the second weekend of release, Maleficent fell to $61.7 million, earning from 52 markets. It was in first place at the box office outside North America on three weekends, its first, third ($39.2 million) and fourth ($47.9 million).
Maleficent is the second highest-grossing 2014 film, and Angelina Jolie's highest-grossing live-action film. In total earnings, the film's top markets after North America are Japan ($57.6 million), China ($47.7 million), Mexico ($46.2 million), Russia ($37.7 million), Brazil ($33.2 million), the United Kingdom ($31.7 million), Venezuela ($24.5 million) and Italy ($19.1 million).
Dave Lewis, writing for HitFix, predicted that although Disney fairy tales and Angelina Jolie's performance might attract audiences, Maleficent would not gross even as much as Oz the Great and Powerful, explaining that the film was released on the same time frame with competitive releases like X-Men: Days of Future Past, Godzilla and A Million Ways to Die in the West. Boxoffice wrote that Maleficent had a successful marketing campaign, featured Jolie in the title role, and its "female-driven" themes and plot aimed at women. However, the site also noted that the film would have to compete with other summer releases, and the character of Maleficent may not attract young children. Todd Cunningham of The Wrap shared the same opinion, writing that "[the film's] connecting with parents and that Jolie's considerable star power is having a big impact." Wells Fargo's Marci Ryvicker predicted that Maleficent might be "too dark and scary to be profitable" and was likely to force Disney "into a write-down", as reported by The New York Times; while RBC Capital Markets' David Bank commented that "It's definitely in the 'not a sure thing' bucket." Wall St. Cheat Sheet explained that the film approached to a more "grown-up" and "sinister" aspect of the classic, and targeted for an older audience like young adults. "It's just too scary for younger children," the site wrote. ScreenRant added that the PG rating of the film would "fill a void in the marketplace, which is currently without a traditional "family friendly" option." Box Office Mojo primarily compared the film with 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman (another film that also focused on a villain), predicting that Maleficent "has a good chance" of matching Snow White's gross in North America box office.
Variety wrote that the film's opening weekend outperforming initial box-office projections was later attributed by analysts in part to Disney's successful marketing to the "potent demographic" (female audiences) much like the studio accomplished with Frozen, in which both films feature a strong female lead. Disney argued that a lack of family-friendly options in the marketplace would "bode well for Maleficent's [box office] performance" in its two first weeks of release.
The film received mixed reviews from critics, who praised Angelina Jolie's performance and the visual effects, but criticized its plot. It currently holds a 48% rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 184 reviews, with an average score of 5.6/10. The site's consensus reads, "Angelina Jolie's magnetic performance outshines Maleficent's dazzling special effects; unfortunately, the movie around them fails to justify all that impressive effort." On Metacritic, the film has a rating of 56 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a A grade on a scale of A to F.
Kate Taylor of The Globe and Mail was very positive about the film, writing that "[it] surprises not for its baroque visions of a colourful woodland enlivened by joyous fairies and a forbidding castle peopled by unhappy humans, but rather for the thematic richness of its story gloriously personified by Angelina Jolie in the title role." While criticizing the overuse of CGI and 3D effects, she particularly praised the positive message of the film and Jolie's performance. She concluded her review that "Long live the feminist revisionist backstory." On the contrary, Keith Staskiewicz, writing for the Entertainment Weekly, awarded the film a "B-" and wrote that "there's a lot of levitating cliffs and odd flora. But despite their bleeding-edge digital design, the backgrounds have all the depth of the old matte-painted backgrounds of the analog days," which made the film "[feel] classical in nature." He further commented that "The characters are boiled down to their essentials, the humor is timelessly broad." Michael Philips of Chicago Tribune gave the film two and a half stars, commenting that the recent "formula" that "a new angle on a well-known fairy tale appears in the light" "works" with Maleficent. He also said that the film "is all about second thoughts", as Maleficent "spends much of the film as Aurora's conflicted fairy godmother." Phillips particularly praised Jolie and Elle Fanning's acting, Rick Baker's makeup (for Jolie's "angular, serrated look"), but criticized James Newton Howard's "sloshy, pushy" musical score.
Angelina Jolie's performance in the film has been repeatedly singled out for praise by critics. Robbie Collin of The Telegraph wrote, "This Disney reimagining of Sleeping Beauty lacks true enchantment, but Angelina Jolie saves the day." Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a positive review, writing "This is Jolie's film because of the Maleficent she makes. Everyone else, even Aurora, fades in her presence." Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post awarded the film three-and-a-half out of four stars, commenting that "Still, for all its limitations, "Maleficent" manages to be improbably entertaining to watch, due solely to its title character." Writing for Roger Ebert's website, Matt Zoller Seitz awarded Maleficent three out of four stars, praising the themes of the film and the acting of Jolie. Seitz also called the scene in which Maleficent discovers the loss of her wings "the most traumatizing image I've seen in a Hollywood fairy tale since the Christ-like sacrifice of Aslan in 2005's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." The review on The Globe and Mail further explained that "in the simple context of a fairy tale, Jolie does make both the terrifying horned creature and her gradual awakening heartfelt," extolling the "emotional richness" behind her physical acts. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times felt more negatively, assigning it a D. Although Roeper praised the visuals, he criticized the acting and writing, stating that "the story itself might well put you into the same type of coma that befalls the heroine."
Multiple reviewers and commentators have noted that an early scene in the movie, in which King Stefan drugs Maleficent and removes her wings from her unconscious body, is a metaphor for rape. Hayley Krischner of The Huffington Post interpreted the scene as an important reference to rape culture: "This is the horrific side of rape culture. We're so enmeshed in it that it's impossible to ignore a metaphoric rape that occurs in a Disney movie". She went on to praise the film for giving a positive and hopeful message to rape victims, ultimately allowing "the woman to recover. It gives her agency. It gives her power. It allows her to reclaim the story". Monika Bartyzel of The Week noted the scene's implications in her review: "In its first act, Maleficent offers a dark, surprisingly adult exploration of rape and female mutilation". However, Bartyzel went onto to opine that the film portrayed Maleficent's actions as "a rape revenge fantasy" and criticized the film for not following through on its early subtext, ultimately calling it less feminist and reductive compared to its 1959 counterpart: "In Maleficent, Aurora is the product of a cold and loveless marriage and a vengeful, unhinged rapist. Her safety relies on a trio of clueless and dangerously careless fairies, and her Godmother is the woman who cursed her — and who had, in turn, been violated by her own father". Angelina Jolie addressed the issue during an interview with BBC Radio on the Women's Hour programme and claimed that the subtext was intentional: "The question was asked: 'What could make a woman become so dark and lose all sense of her maternity, her womanhood, and her softness?' [...] We were very conscious, the writer and I, that [the scene] was a metaphor for rape". She further explained that the answer to the question "What could bring her back?" was still "an extreme Disney, fun version [of the story]", but "at the core it is abuse, and how the abused then have a choice of abusing others or overcoming and remaining loving, open people".
Jordan Shapiro of Forbes argued that the film's main subtext was the detrimental effects of ultimatums between capitalist and socialist societies. He pointed out that the Moors represented a socialist, nature-oriented, democratic society while the human kingdom was one of capitalism, industry and monarchy. Shapiro further commented that the character of Stefan, his theft of the Moors' riches (the jewel) and his mutilation of Maleficent's wings for the sake of his ambition were references to the American Dream. He conceived the wing-tearing scene as "a social commentary that any hierarchical rise to power inherently happens through the exploitation of others", explaining that it was the reason why "without her wings, Maleficent also becomes an oppressive ruler of the Moors. Everything she represents, believes and stands for has been grounded", and "like most victims of oppression", "she takes it out on those who are smaller and weaker". He concluded that through the merge of the two kingdoms at the end of the film, it sought to weave together capitalism and socialism and let go oppositions: "It is time to leave the kingdom of familiar partisan oppositions: let's replace either/or with neither/nor or both/and".
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- Official website
- Maleficent at the Internet Movie Database
- Maleficent at AllMovie
- Maleficent at the TCM Movie Database
- Maleficent at Box Office Mojo
- Maleficent at Metacritic
- Maleficent at Rotten Tomatoes