Maleficent is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of the villain, Maleficent, played by a horn-wearing, winged, not-quite-English accented Angelina Jolie (saying that, the accent wasn't too far off, and it wasn't as posh as the Lara Croft one).
I love a fairy tale retelling. I love the way stories can be made into whatever you want them to be. Gregory Maguire showed this incredibly well with Wicked, a novel based on 'The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West'. Which I have read and loved, and has become a stage musical and possibly even a film (yes, I will be seeing that too if or when it comes out). Maleficent, however, is often deemed one of the cruelest Disney villains. She curses a baby for not being invited to a party? Really? Then she decides that because some fairy put a condition on her curse she's just going to lock up and probably torture a Prince Phillip just because he might just hope to break the curse. That's pretty low.
Nobody had any sympathy for someone like that.
Now Disney are shining a new light on the character, saying that she was a free spirit until a young Stefan broke her heart. So she cursed his daughter out of a need for revenge, and spends the rest of the film regrowing her heart. At the beginning she is a naive and carefree child meeting a human for the first time, gliding over 'The Moors', which are covered in CGI effects and filled with creatures of all varieties, but by the end she is a woman who has learnt a lesson and learns to love again. I did find the beginning a brutal reminder that this film isn't meant for adults. I just found it too sappy and childish. It did get better though.
I think the things that made it good for me was the addition of warring species, the story of how Maleficent the fairy lost her wings, and Sam Riley. For me he made this film. Sam Riley plays the raven Diaval in it's human form. He provides a voice of reason to Maleficent and a person who can share her burden. He is a loyal friend and I love what Disney has done for this character. Is the original he was Diablo, an annoying, screechy evil pet, and now they have given him a real character. He also looks pretty awesome. I also thought Sharlto Copley, who plays King Stefan, was very good.
I was a little annoyed about Prince Phillip. He is my favourite Disney Prince hands down. He's kind, charming, brave, strong, funny and saves the day in stupendous heroic fashion, with his horse pal along for the ride. In this film I felt nothing for the character and he was demoted somewhat, getting next to no screen time and barely a happy ending.
I should probably mention Elle Fanning here too. She plays the good natured, sweet, innocent Aurora in her most sickly form. All I can really say about her is that she seemed sweet. That's it. I don't get how everyone seemed to love her when she had no personality, apart from the fact that she was just plain nice and innocent.
I was also annoyed by the pixies (the three fairies that look after Aurora). I hated them. They were silly and insubstantial, and only there to give children laughs.
Overall though, I did enjoy it, but could clearly see that it was meant for a younger generation. I'm giving it 6 out of 10. I admired the storyline and how it diverged from the original, but there weren't that many features that I thought would make it a better film than the original.