If Hollywood’s serious remodeling of whimsical fairy tales is starting (or languorously continuing) to drain the fun out of your moviegoing experience, then you’d certainly have reason to be fearful of Maleficent. On the other hand, a gothic refitting of Sleeping Beauty isn’t the most outlandish of choices, the story already steeped in darker mischief than Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz. If there’s anything at risk of alteration in this adaptation, it’s the natural mythology. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful both distorted the worlds of their source material to form a generic epic-war plot, and given the former’s writer Linda Woolverton is at work again on Maleficent, we should be prepared for a potential degree of convolution.
Given the trailer itself, though, I may be oddly optimistic for Maleficent. Starting out with a dismantled Disney castle as its logo, they’re certainly playing up the aforementioned goth element, but there’s an element of genuine beauty so far that was lost on Burton and Raimi’s cruder, more devilish revisionisms. Art director on those two films, Robert Stromberg, graduates to director here, and dare I say it’s a bit exciting to see him finally in full command of the film’s stylistic sensibility, not filtering it through an exterior director’s eye. That said, his track record of those two films (along with finely detailed, but grossly miscoloured Avatar) leaves much to be desired, and it’s hard not to find some of this trailer’s images rather garish.
The trailer does admittedly play up the obvious iconography of the spinning wheel and forest of thorns, as well as the titular character’s recognizable silhouette. At least Disney has the good sense to hold back on the dragon, at least in this first teaser. I’ll likely avoid any future trailers for fear of them blowing their own wad before I see the film, but what I do get a sense of from this teaser is the delicious casting (Juno Temple and Lesley Manville also feature in the film’s English ensemble, though I worry they’ll be wasted). Elle Fanning is an ideally sweet, not manipulatively sexualized choice for Aurora, but the most delicious line-reading of the trailer inevitably belongs to Angelina Jolie’s eponymous figure.
“I am not afraid.”
“Then come out.”
“Then you’ll be afraid.”
Cue the Inception *BRAAAAAHHHHHHM* and I tune out of the trailer, but not before Jolie has hooked me with her first performance in forever/since The Tourist. Maleficent comes out May 30th, 2014, so I hope you’ll join me in abstaining from film-ruining advertisement during those six months. If the film’s going to disappoint me, which it quite possibly will, I’d rather it do it in one fell swoop.