If you’ve ventured onto the internet at all lately, you’ve probably seen at least three trailers, two TV spots, and one scene from the upcoming remake of Disney’s classic Beauty and the Beast. It’s part of Disney’s new wave of remakes of classic Disney animated features which have included Maleficent, Cinderella, and The Jungle Book with new additions such as Dumbo and The Lion King coming soon as well. Whether you’re a fan of these remakes or not, you have to admit that Beauty and the Beast already looks stunning.
It’s set to hit theaters on March 17th so in anticipation, we’re going to look at the other Disney remakes that have come before it and see how they’ve measured up to their original animated counterparts—are they just as magical as we imagined they would be or did they just fall flat?
The very first of these Disney remakes hit theaters on May 30, 2014 in the form of Maleficent. The film is loosely (very loosely) based on the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty and the 1959 Disney classic of the same name. While it was a commercial success (grossing over $758 million), it received mixed reviews from critics and fans alike.
The movie follows in the footsteps of shows such as Wicked and Once Upon a Time where we see a story that we think we know so well, and learn that we were wrong all along and the villain really isn’t all that bad. Now, don’t get me wrong! Sleeping Beauty is one of my favorite Disney films, Aurora is my favorite princess, and Maleficent is my all-time favorite villain so I was all for this retelling of the classic story. I just wish they would have done a better job at it.
The movie spins a brand new tale with the antagonist from the original film and her complicated relationship with the young Sleeping Beauty. The jealous fairy curses the princess with the fate of pricking her finger on the spindle of the spinning wheel and only true love’s kiss can break the curse of eternal sleep.
And that’s about where the similarities end.
Instead of following the story line of the original, we get a juicy backstory between Maleficent, fairy and Guardian of the Moors, and Stefan, a young peasant boy hungry for power. After betraying Maleficent and stealing her wings, Stefan becomes king and Maleficent vows revenge.
From here, we know the story: Maleficent curses Aurora to an eternal sleep.
However, instead of remaining an angry fairy bent on revenge, Maleficent begins to grow fond of little Aurora and, in the end, it is the love between Aurora and Maleficent that wakes her up, not true love’s kiss between Aurora and Philip.
And, of course, everyone lives Happily Ever After!
This was Disney’s very first attempt at a remaking one of their animated classics and turning it into a live action film fit for 21st century audiences… and it shows.
If you just look at the duration of the two films–the original clocking in at 86 minutes and the remake only 11 minutes longer–you can see that Disney tried to keep the story compact in the hope of keeping kids interested in it. Instead of making a brand new film and adding content to it, they kept it around the same amount of time and changed things without adding anything. What they did add was just confusing and the majority of what they changed just took away any charm that the original film had.
One of the bigger changes we can see throughout the entire film is the rewriting of almost every single character and, to be honest, I think it’s the biggest downfall of the film. The three fairies who were a great source of comic relief in the original are now dumbed down to something I can’t even call comic relief—their characters are just so dimwitted. Prince Philip who is one of the greatest princes that Disney has come up with—dashing and daring at the same time—barely makes a cameo and is (like so many of the other characters) simplified into a stereotype and is nothing more than a buffoon getting dragged this way and that, all the while with a dough eyed confused look on his face.
Speaking of changes in characters, one of the main aspects about Maleficent’s character and the one thing that made her a bigger and better villain than any other in Disney history was the fact that she can transform into a freaking dragon. It’s one of the most epic climaxes of any Disney film and shows just how awesome Maleficent can be.
I was interested to see how the filmmakers were going to twist this part of the story. Was Maleficent going to transform into a dragon to keep the wicked King Stefan away from Aurora? Or maybe there would be an epic war between the humans and the fairies and she would use her unimaginable power to protect the Moors! Or she could not turn into a dragon at all…
That’s right: the most definitive moment of the film and the one thing that separated Maleficent from every other Disney villain barely makes any sort of appearance in the film and when it does, it isn’t even Maleficent!
But like I said before, Maleficent is my #1 Baddie! While this film didn’t come anywhere near to what I was hoping, I can’t deny the few things that I really did like in the film.
First and foremost, Angelina Jolie. Let’s face it—whether you’re a die hard Sleeping Beauty fan (like me) or not, you were excited when Jolie was announced as the ferocious fairy. She was signed on to play Maleficent as far back as 2010 before there was even an official director; she was passionate from the beginning and you can tell.
I’ll be fair and say that her acting wasn’t superb… but it wasn’t terrible either. In the beginning when we first see Maleficent defending the Moors, her acting is a bit off. It just seemed overly shout-y and forced.
However, the christening scene is worth the price of the DVD rental. It is almost verbatim when it comes to the original film and is exactly what you want out of a live action remake. Jolie brings Maleficent to life in this scene being both drop dead gorgeous and diabolical as well.
Jolie and Maleficent go hand in hand and you really can’t review Maleficent without mentioning the Mistress of All Evil.
She’s magical, powerful, sarcastic, Queen of the Moors, and beautiful too. This is a new take on villains—especially female villains. For years, we’ve seen female antagonists as being hideous—the Wicked Witch of the West, the Queen of Hearts, Ursula from The Little Mermaid. Even the face character of Maleficent in the Disney Parks is painted green and given an enormous chin prosthetic to make her appear distorted and ugly. This is, in my opinion, taking a huge step back from the original concept of Maleficent. Just look at an image of Maleficent from the 1959 film. Yes she has horns and her skin has an inhuman tint, but she is also beautiful. In a way, Disney has returned to the roots of Maleficent and made her powerful, strong, and beautiful once more.
As a whole, I get what Disney was trying to do with Maleficent, even if it didn’t pan out the way anyone hoped. The twist on the relationship between Maleficent and Aurora is something new that we’ve been seeing lately—unique loves like those found in Brave (Merida’s love for her mother) and Frozen (Anna and Elsa’s love for each other). Instead of the traditional prince/princess love stories of days gone by, nowadays we’re seeing other kinds of love that aren’t necessarily romantic.
It was quite a feat for Disney to try to tackle a story like Sleeping Beauty with a villain as iconic as Maleficent. Some changes–like explaining Maleficent’s hatred for Stefan–helped to add to the story. Other changes–like the perversion of so many of the beloved characters–went so far as to lessen the beautiful story that Sleeping Beauty is. Clearly, Maleficent’s less than stellar performance didn’t stop Disney from continuing on with their remakes but it’s sad to see that the Mistress of All Evil became nothing more than a story about a simple misunderstanding.
Amanda Woomer-Limpert is The Geekiverse’s Disney Expert. Her & Josiah go way back. Keep it locked to The Geekiverse for all things Disney & Maleficent.
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