Will Sleeping Beauty Spin-off Franchise continue Disney Magic?
Joker is not the only iconic villain getting a feature film this fall. On October 18th, Academy Award winning actress Angelina Jolie will be returning to the role of “Sleeping Beauty” antagonist Maleficent in “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.”
While the story of “Sleeping Beauty” dates back to the twelfth century, it was Walt Disney who gave Maleficent her name and famous look in the popular 1959 animated film adaptation. In that movie, Maleficent is the main villain, an evil fairy who curses Princess Aurora to die before her sixteenth birthday—that is unless she is saved by true love’s kiss, which being a Disney princess, she of course is.
Since Disney’s rendition of the classic fairy tale, Maleficent has been a pop-culture icon. For the past sixty years, her greenish face, dark cloak, horned crown, and crow-like aura have made her the embodiment of wickedness. She stands alongside Ursula, Scar, Jafar, and Captain Hook as the greatest Disney villains of all time.
In the 1959 movie, Eleanor Audley provided the voice of Maleficent—the same actress who voiced Cinderella’s evil stepmother nine years earlier. Over the years a few different actresses have taken on the role. Lois Nettleton voiced Maleificent in the 2001 “Mickey’s House of Villains”; Kristin Chenoweth played her in the 2015 Disney Channel TV movie “Descendants”; and several women have portrayed her in different theatrical productions.
“Sleeping Beauty” is certainly a timeless tale, and thus Maleficent is an everlasting villain. However, there is one recent performance of the antagonist that stands above the rest. And that is Angelina Jolie’s.
Evil Rendition is Part of the Appeal
Jolie first played Maleficent in the 2014 “Maleficent.” This live-action Disney film was an alternate telling of the Sleeping Beauty story with an obvious focus on the villain. Nevertheless, Jolie did not reimagine Maleficent as empathetic. Despite being the main character, Jolie’s Maleficent is as despicable as ever. Fortunately, her haughty, bad-tempered sternness is exactly what makes her so entertaining. While it is incredibly difficult to pull of a live-action performance that does justice to an iconic cartoon character, Jolie has the right amount of attitude and moxie to pull it off.
“Maleficent” was somewhat ahead of its time too, as it came out one year before Disney’s 2015 “Cinderella,” which kicked off the studio’s current cycle of live-action remakes. Today, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” feels a little more expected, as this year has already given live-action reimaginings of “Dumbo,” “Aladdin,” and “The Lion King” and will get one of “Lady and the Tramp” with the release of Disney+ in November.
While some fans criticize Disney for these constant rehashes, shaming the company for lacking creativity and constantly chasing the easy dollar, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” promises to offer a bit more novelty. Although the story is based off of characters and concepts from “Sleeping Beauty,” its screenplay is original. The narrative appropriately picks up a few years after the 2014 film left off. Princess Aurora is grown up and wants to marry her beloved Prince Phillip. Unenthused about this prospect, Maleficent is determined to put a stop to the wedding, and will employ all the dark magic she has to do so.
Although not Prime Marketing Focus, Maleficent will be in great company
The story will dig deeper into the Aurora’s royal family, their political ties, and the secret supernaturalism that lurks within the film’s fantastical world. As it is foremost a story about the villain, it will obviously be dark and moody in tone. However, it is still a PG rated Disney movie, so there is bound to be a high degree of playfulness, adventure, and family fun as well.
Returning for the sequel along with Jolie, the young Elle Fanning is reprising her role as Princess Aurora. Juno Temple, Imelda Staunton, and Sam Riley will also be returning from the 2014 film. Joining the cast will be the talented Michelle Pfeiffer, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harris Dickinson, and Ed Skerein amongst others. Behind the camera, we will also see Joachim Rønning replace Robert Stromberg as director and Ellen Mirojnick replace Anna B. Sheppard as costume designer—the only category that the 2014 movie received an Oscar nomination for.
With all of the live action remakes, record breaking Marvel movies, “Toy Story 4,” and Disney+ preorders, 2019 has been one of Disney’s most profitable years to date… and we are still yet to see what kind of damage “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and “Frozen 2” do at the box-office. Because of the inner-studio competition, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” will likely not be the company’s most lucrative film of the year. It will also have to go up against “Zombieland: Double Tap” on opening weekend. Nevertheless, with strong marketing, star power, and a considerable fan base, it will likely fare well enough financially, and might just get some positive critical reception as well, all in all being a satisfying project for audiences and Disney alike.
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