Since Maleficent is a relatively new movie, I will try to be as vague as possible so as to avoid spoilers. I have become irreversibly obsessed with the ABC television show Once Upon a Time which is known for providing its “villains” with back stories, bringing proof to the old adage “Evil isn’t born. It’s made.” I believe this is the forerunner for Hollywood’s current fascination with redefining true love and exploring villainy. Thus the retelling of Sleeping Beauty through the eyes of Maleficent, the self-proclaimed mistress of all evil, was a tough story to tell.
In Finding Pearls, I hope to find what most deeply offends and address that offense, so we can take the dirt and sand and turn it into a beautiful pearl. Some have posited that Maleficent humanizes the villain far too much, so that she is actually very separate from the Disney sorceress. Others have argued that seeking to discover what makes a villain a villain is essentially the same thing as agreeing with a villain’s choices and actions, and should be expressly avoided altogether. A lot of this latter attitude seems to come from the Christian community. I find this troubling.
Do we really think we are so strong and good for not choosing a villainous path? Life is made up of choices. Some good, some bad. I would argue that not a single human being, Christian or otherwise, has made all of one kind of choice their whole life through. That being said. Christianity, and the rules of general human decency is about seeking to understand and love our fellowman no matter where they are at.
I appreciated this movie, though it was difficult to reconcile it with the original Disney. The problem for compassionate people with the original Disney is that there are absolutely no redemptive qualities in the notoriously evil fairy who literally calls on all the “powers of hell” and seems motivated to incredible and despicable evils simply because she was not invited to the christening of Baby Aurora (with whom their appears no personal relation). Much as I love the Disney version, Disney’s most horrendous and terrifying character is literally holding onto a sixteen-year-long grudge over being snubbed for a royal baby’s christening. She is so irrational and disturbingly wicked, it is near impossible to find very much compassion for Disney’s original animated Maleficent.
Not so with the 2014 live action retelling. We get to see Maleficent as a child, we see her kindness towards her fellow forest friends, we can see her fly and the freedom she gets in flight. We see her innocence. And then we see it taken, we see her harden. And we are able to understand why she would feel offended and wish to curse the Baby Aurora.
Many people seem to believe that some people are born evil. This goes all the way back to Cain and Abel. And it is probably my biggest pet peeve. I’ve seen it also so often in cinema. This is especially notable in the heralded classic Gone with the Wind in the characters of Scarlet O’Hara and Rhett Butler. Supposedly they’re bad, and that’s all they’ll ever be. That infuriated me! I really don’t believe this. What makes life so wonderful is that we all have our story. Much as it seems Hitler was always the cold and calculating, racist general whose infamous secret deeds made the world step back in awed disgust and horror to remember the great scope of man’s evil; there was a time that Adolph Hitler was an infant, a toddler, a child, a teenager, and even, a Catholic. We don’t always get the opportunity to see the world through another’s eyes. I believe, Hollywood has made that possible.
I think the most overwhelmingly difficult villain for today’s Disney to redeem has to be Maleficent. But I was impressed by this movie. It had incredible effects, almost Narnian or Tolkienesque. A surprising story, it managed not to scrap, in its entirety, the original Disney version, or the Grimm tale.
Watching movies like Maleficent, helps me to see what motivates others. How they are feeling, what they are thinking, and I see their hopes, wishes, hurts and dreams. I am able to see the whole person. Not just the few isolated moments in history of their seemingly irredeemable evil. As Christians, or even, a simply hopeful race of people, we get to believe in redemption, no questions asked, no one can ever be out of reach.
Original Animated Comparison picture~ http://www.thereelbits.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/maleficent001.jpg
Live Action Maleficent Comparison picture~ http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2014/05/08/article-2623624-1DADA5C600000578-704_634x501.jpg
Animated Aurora and Maleficent~ http://images2.fanpop.com/images/photos/6400000/Maleficent-and-Aurora-sleeping-beauty-6461922-500-375.jpg
Live Action Aurora and Maleficent~ http://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/disney/images/d/d9/Maleficent_(2).png/revision/latest?cb=20150329222510