I didn't like the 1959 animated film Sleeping Beauty. In retrospect, my two star rating seems generous. The 2014 remake, Maleficent, had some pretty cool trailers, but only garnered a 49% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which means that it got mixed reviews. Richard Roeper, who I greatly respect, gave Maleficent only a "D". So naturally my expectations for the movie were not very high. However, one of my friends told me that he loved the movie, and imagine my surprise when I could not really find anything wrong with the film. It doesn't feel like a great film, but not a bad one either.
This remake turns the original story on its head, which is a good thing because the 1959 animated film was a complete bore. In the new version, Maleficent is just as much the heroine as she is the villain. Actually, this seems to follow the Hollywood trend toward female empowerment. It also follows the Hollywood trend of giving villains a backstory. This leads to some great twists at the end, which compared to the previous version is quite refreshing.
Angelina Jolie has been praised for her performance as Maleficent. This feels like a part that she was born to play.
The movie was written by Linda Woolverton, who also wrote The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and Alice in Wonderland.
I am going out on a limb here and giving the film an extra half star for originality and beauty. Rating: * * * 1/2.