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No doubt you are familiar with Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. Although not one of the more popular Disney Princesses in our home, my family is familiar with the story. Disney’s Maleficent tells a slightly different tale.

Although I’m usually a fan of classics, feeling that the retelling of a familiar fable is redundant and usually doesn’t live up to exceptions set by the original, retelling a story from a different perspective intrigues me. That is what lays behind Maleficent, the familiar story of Princess Aurora and the spinning wheel curse as told by the “dark fairy”, Maleficent herself.

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In the traditional story we start from the curse and the tale follows the battle between good (the kingdom of King Stephan) and the bad, Maleficent. By why is Maleficent so malicious? What brings on her hate of the King, acted out by the curse on his daughter? That is the interesting twist with this film. We get some back-story and this story changes our whole perspective.

Along with this twist, Maleficent is a much more intense than the original Disney story. Part of that is due to it being live action verses animated but there are also battle scenes with creatures created from the trees and ground that, although I thought were amazing, will most definitely be scary for little kids. There were actually a number of elements of Maleficent that were reminiscent of Lord of the Rings, such as the melodic character narration, the tree soldiers, the power of greed over man to corrupt, epic battles between knights and mythical creatures. I almost forgot I was watching a Disney film.

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It was interesting to see how our emotions can infect the world around us, as illustrated through the characters on screen. Maleficent’s anger alters the beauty of the magical woods, the King’s greed and paranoia alienates him from his kingdom and daughter, and the princesses’ gift of never being blue (bestowed upon her by one of the fairies at birth) even infects those of harden heart.

Although the story of Maleficent is different than the Sleeping Beauty we all grew up with, the same elements are still there. There is a battle between good and evil (though we start to question who is on which side) as well as the curse that can only be broken by true love’s kiss.

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As my kids and I get older I still love a traditional fairy tale (gasp) but I do so enjoy a twist, something other than boy meets girl, girl falls for boy, boy rescues girl. Maleficent has elements of a traditional fairy tale but turns it on its ear at the end. I must admit I sort of excepted the ending but that makes it no less more enjoyable.

Maleficent is an entertaining action film for older families though perhaps to intense for younger kids. There is no blood in the battles but weapons are used to attack one another. The creatures Maleficent calls upon to fight with her may be scary too, especially when they take up a whole movie screen in a dark theatre. Like the original Sleeping Beauty, there is a dragon in the end but an animated dragon is not nearly as severe looking as the one in this film, especially as it is being attacked by a group of knights. And of course there is the final death scene but perhaps not the character you’re expecting.

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I loved Maleficent and think my kids will too as they are fans of Lord of the Rings and other fantasy action films. This is a great middle ground film, not to cutesy like g-rated family films yet not as over the top and violet as some action adventure films aimed at adults. The story uses the bones from the original Sleeping Beauty, still a family favourite, but gives it a different perspective.  Many scenes make Maleficent a film worth seeing in the theatre but this will probably be a film we will also own when it is released down the road.

Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

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