Maleficent Parent Guide
While I appreciate there are at least two sides to every story, this movie wanders down an entirely different track than the original Disney animation.
Parent Movie Review
Parents be warned: Maleficent doesn’t resemble anything you remember from the childhood fairytale of Sleeping Beauty. This is all about villain vindication. While I appreciate there are at least two sides to every story, this movie wanders down an entirely different track than the original Disney animation.
As a child, Maleficent (Isobelle Molloy) lives in a magical world full of fairies, flowers and strange little creatures that all exist in peaceful harmony. Across the river is the human kingdom, ruled over by a greedy and prideful king who has vowed to conquer his neighbors and steal their riches. One day the fairies discover a human boy who has crept into their land and taken a jewel. As a protector of her people, Maleficent insists Stefan (Michael Higgins) return the stone. The interaction leads to the beginning of an unlikely friendship.
Unfortunately Stefan (Sharlto Copley) grows up and puts aside his childhood friend in pursuit of the crown. In order to become the new king, Stefan drugs Maleficent and mutilates her by cutting off her wings. The act of violence turns Maleficent against the new ruler and leads to a more aggressive rivalry between the two kingdoms. Then at the birth of King Stefan’s daughter, Maleficent appears at the celebration and casts a spell on the royal infant: On her sixteenth birthday Aurora is cursed to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall into an eternal sleep.
Like the original Disney movie, all the spinning wheels are burned and Aurora is placed in the care of three friendly fairies that take her deep into the woods. However, Flittle (Lesley Manville), Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton) and Thistletwit (Juno Temple) act more like the Three Stooges than the animation’s characters Flora, Fauna and Merryweather. In fact the three caregivers are so inept that Maleficent has to intervene (from a distance) and raise the little girl herself.
Meanwhile Stefan becomes increasingly obsessed with killing Maleficent. He repeatedly sends his soldiers to attack her kingdom with swords, chains and flaming fireballs. As his mental acuity wanes, he spends more time alone in his room carrying on one-sided conversations with his imagined nemesis and neglects his dying wife. It’s a dark and depressing version of the fairytale that is far too mature for what is likely the intended audience. Even the obligatory appearance of Prince Phillip (Brenton Thwaits) doesn’t pan out as expected.
In fact nothing about this film is what I anticipated. The storyline is a complicated tale of escalating revenge, parental abandonment and distrust, with plenty of violent encounters involving brutal hand combat and weapon use. The movie is also offers a strong allegory of sexual assault and trauma, which could be disturbing to some viewers - although most children will be completely oblivious to the subtext. While Maleficent gets to justify her actions in this version, Aurora (Elle Fanning) is the one who is left to choose between what appears to be two evils. And where is the happily-ever-after in that?Directed by Robert Stromberg. Starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley. Running time: 98 minutes. Theatrical release May 30, 2014. Updated June 30, 2022
Watch the trailer for Maleficent
Rating & Content Info
Why is Maleficent rated PG? Maleficent is rated PG by the MPAA for sequences of fantasy action and violence, including frightening images.
A fantastical female character unwittingly drinks a potion that a male character has placed in a beverage and while she is unconscious he mutilates her body (by cutting off her wings)—the act is non-sexual with no explicit detail seen. A female character is subjected to being touched by material that causes her skin to burn. A female character is confined against her will. Various characters hit and slap other characters. Evil spells are cast on characters. A character pricks her finger—blood is briefly seen. Characters attack one another with swords, fireballs and chains. A character is choked. A man dies after falling from a rooftop.
Male and female characters kiss.
Characters refer to each other in derogatory terms using words like “stupid.”
A potion is hidden in a drink by a male character and given to a female character.
Page last updated June 30, 2022
Maleficent Parents' Guide
Was Maleficent’s vengeance toward the king justified? Was his response? How does pride play into this plot?
What qualities does Aurora show toward Maleficent? How does her attitude affect the vengeful fairy? What can we learn from her example?
Prior to kissing Aurora the Prince remarks, “I hardly know her.” How is “true love” often portrayed in movies? Do you think it’s possible to experience true love? Does it always have to be within a romantic context?
Who is the protagonist in this movie? Do you think an “anti-hero” is a concept young children can understand?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
If you enjoy hearing the villain’s take on the story, you’ll want to read the one that started it all. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire, launched the hit Broadway musical and kicked off a trend for telling “the other side”.
Even Maleficent doesn’t go as dark as Liz Braswell in Once Upon a Dream: A Twisted Tale. In this fun YA novel, the princess doesn’t awaken with true love’s kiss: the prince falls asleep too. Can the sleeping princess save them all?
Is the princess asleep or dead? Or both? When a blacksmith’s apprentice wakes up in a thorn-shrouded, ruined castle, he doesn’t know how he got there, or what to make of the young girl he finds. Get the rest of the story in Merrie Haskell’s The Castle Behind Thorns.
Princess Ben is a clever reworking of the traditional Sleeping Beauty tale by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. This princess isn’t asleep: she has created a simulacrum that appears to be asleep while she travels abroad to avenge her father and save her kingdom.
In The Princess Game, Melanie Cellier reimagines the Sleeping Beauty story with a princess whose mind is alert but who is cursed to behave as a vapid young woman.
Another novel with a light twist on the traditional tale is Finding Sleeping Beauty. Written by Tarrah Montgomery, the king in this tale tries to protect his cursed daughter by sending her through a magic door to…Idaho. Can the princess adjust to high school? And can she protect herself and her friends when the curse comes calling?
What if the princess wasn’t cursed to die or to sleep? What if she was cursed to transform into a dragon when she comes of age? Lichelle Slater tells this action packed story in The Dragon Princess: Sleeping Beauty Reimagined.
This movie is a dark tale, with betrayal and violation as key elements. Older teens who are interested in these themes will want to read Robin McKinley’s Deerskin. Parents should note that sexual assault is part of the story but there is no graphic detail.
The most recent home video release of Maleficent movie is November 4, 2014. Here are some details…Home Video Notes: Maleficent
Release Date: 4 November 2014
Maleficent releases to home video (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy) with the following supplements:
- Aurora: Becoming A Beauty (Elle Fanning reveals her lifelong love of Disney’s original animated classic.)
- From Fairy Tale to Feature Film - Reimagining Maleficent for a new generation
- Building An Epic Battle –Creating the clash between Maleficent and King Henry’s Forces
- Classic Couture - Examine Maleficent’s spellbinding head wraps and jewelry.
- Maleficent Revealed - Explore the layers of extraordinary special effects.
- Deleted Scenes
Related home video titles:
Disney’s animated Sleeping Beauty is the classic retelling of the fairy tale for viewers of all ages.
If you like re-worked fairy tales geared to older audiences, you will want to watch Snow White and the Huntsman and The Huntsman: Winter’s War. The first film features a murderous wicked queen who uses dark arts to suck life and youth from beautiful subjects. Snow White’s triumph in this story isn’t complete: the sequel introduces the Ice Queen, sister of the vanquished usurper, who also needs to be defeated.
Mirror, Mirror is another re-telling of the Snow White story aimed at older kids and teens; this one is less violent than the Huntsman movies.
Disney has also remade the Alice stories in ways that are somewhat darker than the animated version. Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass follow an older Alice’s adventures and battles in the strange world she found down the rabbit hole.
If you’re looking for an old tale vibe mixed with action, adventure, romance, magic, and lots of swordplay, turn to Ladyhawke. (Coincidentally, Michelle Pfeiffer stars in this film, but as the cursed maiden, not a villainous queen.)