The sequel to Disney’s Maleficent with Angelina Jolie in the titular role is officially happening. Angelina Jolie and Ellie Fanning will both be returning as Maleficent and Aurora, respectively, with Michelle Pfeiffer as Queen Ingrith (a new character), Harris Dickinson as Prince Phillip, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein, and Robert Lindsay as yet unknown characters.
I’ve always liked Maleficent. I saw it when it first came out, I have a poster that they were giving away for it, I have it on Blu-Ray. While it is by no means an amazing movie, in my opinion, it was still a good movie—and unfortunately, it was not an indicator of the level of creativity that would continue on in future live-action Disney adaptations.
A lot of the feedback I remember hearing about Maleficent was critical of turning the character from the petty vengeful mistress of all evil to a sympathetic survivor of assault who was unleashing her rage against the man who wronged her, with Maleficent serving as essentially a freedom fighter for the fairies. And while I deeply agree that we should have female villains who are motivated by their own wickedness, that was never the point of Maleficent, and focusing on that ignores all the good things the movie did do.
For one, it wasn’t a “paint-by-numbers but add CGI” version of the original Disney movie, Sleeping Beauty. In fact, the movies are so different they can really exist without one another. Maleficent AND Aurora are both given depth as characters, with Maleficent’s rage being healed by the love she grows to feel for the young human girl she cursed.
One of the things I remember adoring was the fact that Aurora is not saved by a true love’s kiss from Phillip, who does appear in the movie towards the end, but from Maleficent, because romantic love isn’t the only kind that matters. That’s awesome to see in an adaptation of a ’50s movie that, while iconic, is really just about two pretty rich white kids getting together in the end.
The problem I’ve had with the Disney live-action films since has never been that I don’t want to see the story done differently; I just want creativity.
What is the point of watching Beauty and the Beast in live action if the changes between it and the animated film are minimal and the changes that were made to “explain plot holes” only raise new plot holes? It can’t exist as its own thing because there isn’t much there. Plus, Emma Watson, while lovely, was not ever going to be Belle in either acting or singing.
We live in a Shape of Water is an Oscar-winner world, and we don’t need our beast boyfriends to turn into generic hotties anymore. Hell, even Shrek 1 & 2 understood that.
Live action Cinderella just seemed fairly reductive considering we’ve had so many versions of the Cinderella story that have improved upon some of the more problematic elements of the Disney story. Ever After, Into the Woods, and Cinderella III: A Twist in Time manages to make Cinderella a character with agency, but still kind and caring without being the doormat she becomes in the Disney live-action 2015 film.
Even Disney’s Descendents knows how to have fun with itself and doesn’t bog itself down with needing to be “reverent.”
With Mulan and The Lion King in the works, I’m certain those films will make a ton of money, but I’m hoping that they will at least try to not just cash in on nostalgia completely and attempt to also make their own thing. It isn’t hard to make a progressive Disney live-action adaptation. For all Beauty and the Beast‘s talk about being “feminist,” Maleficent managed to sell that idea better without having to slap the label all over the tin.
What will be coming up in Maleficent II? Here is what we know thus far according to i09:
A fantasy adventure that picks up several years after Maleficent, in which audiences learned of the events that hardened the heart of Disney’s most notorious villain and drove her to curse a baby Princess Aurora, Maleficent II continues to explore the complex relationship between the horned fairy and the soon to be Queen, as they form new alliances and face new adversaries in their struggle to protect the moors and the magical creatures that reside within.
Two female leaders having conflicts while balancing their mother/daughter relationship? Sign me up. At the end of the day, it’ll be worth it to see Angelina Jole in that red lipstick again.
(via io9, image: Disney)
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