Sympathy for the Devil: Review of Disney’s “Maleficent”
“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20
I admit it. I’m a Disney geek. I love fairy tales. I love stories where ultimate good triumphs over ultimate evil, and classic Disney movies tended to portray this beautifully. One of my favorite Disney movies of all time is the 1959 classic “Sleeping Beauty.” The story of Sleeping Beauty is a wonderful tale of pure innocence triumphing over utter depravity. The setting of that animated masterpiece is breathtaking, with over a thousand animators working for six years to complete, adapting Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet for the score. It’s an enchanting story and a beautiful artistic achievement.
The classic Disney film depicts a magical kingdom where a good king and queen have just had a daughter named Aurora. Aurora is a blessing to the realm, and a celebration for her birth takes place amongst all of the residents of this enchanted land. As usual, there can be no fairy tale without a wicked protagonist, bent on bringing darkness to the kingdom. In Sleeping Beauty, the villain is a witch named Maleficent. http://www.thecountjackulashow.com/ Maleficent is pure evil. There is not an ounce of good portrayed in her character. She curses little Aurora, that on her 16th birthday, she would prick her finger on a spinning wheel, and die. (This is a correction from an earlier version of this post, wherein I mistakenly said that Maleficent’s original curse was a sleeping curse. My apologies for getting that detail wrong.) One of the three fairies in attendance, Merryweather, manages to weaken the curse, changing it to a deep sleep that could only be broken by true love’s kiss. Maleficent is ultimately defeated in the end. There is no ambiguity. No confusion as to who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. Good triumphs over evil. Roll credits.
Because this is my favorite Disney animated film, I excitedly went to see the brand new live action adaptation of the story, simply called “Maleficent.” It is a visually stunning film with some scenes that leave the viewer breathless with their incredibly realized visions of an otherworldly realm.
S P O I L E R A L E R T
The title character is played by Angelina Jolie. The film begins with Maleficent as a child. She is portrayed as a fairy, living in a magical kingdom where there is no need for government because everyone takes care of each other. This magical kingdom borders the kingdom of humans, where of course, everything is war and strife. Typical.
The first thing one notices about young Maleficent is that while she is called a fairy, she does not look like the fairies we’re accustomed to seeing in story books and legends. Maleficent is a beautiful young girl, with ram horns protruding from her head, along with giant wings. article source
Fairies are usually portrayed with wings, but the ones belonging to Maleficent are not gossamer and ethereal as one might expect. Hers look more like that of a giant raptor of some sort, covered in dark feathers, with a giant claw protruding from the highest joint on each side. She looks less like what we’ve come to expect fairies to look like, and more like some kind of Gothic angel.The imagery is haunting.
Maleficent lives in harmony with her magical woodland friends. She is portrayed as pure good. One day, a human boy named Stefan shows up at the entrance to the enchanted forest. It is understood that up until this point, fairies and humans did not get along. But through a series of encounters, Maleficent and the boy grow very close, eventually sharing “true love’s kiss.” It’s all so romantic. Time goes by and Maleficent matures. She sees less and less of Stefan, and it is explained that Stefan has been caught up in the pursuit of worldly power and riches, forgetting his beloved Maleficent.
Fast forward to adulthood. Stefan is a servant in the castle of the human King. The King desires the riches held inside the enchanted garden of fairies. He launches an attack on the forest, which is thwarted by Maleficent and her army of fantastic creatures. On his deathbed, the king vows that whomever can bring him proof that Maleficent is dead, will be crowned the next king. do my assignments for me Stefan goes back to the forest and meets with his childhood love. She welcomes him. That night, Stefan drugs Maleficent and cuts off her wings. He presents them to the king, and becomes king himself. For her part, Maleficent is thrown into a fit of rage and despair upon discovering that her precious wings had been removed, and the act of betrayal came from the human she thought was her true love.
Now, we see Maleficent becoming the wicked villain that we came to know so many years ago in the original Disney film. Her eyes glow green and the entire garden becomes dark and foreboding. While she is now earthbound and devastated, she declares dominion over the enchanted realm, and the woodland creatures bow down the her. She vows revenge upon Stefan. When Stefan and his new queen give birth to their daughter Aurora, Maleficent crashes the party and enacts that familiar curse over baby Aurora. The curse is the same as it was in the animated film, and only “true love’s kiss” can rescue Aurora from the “sleep like death.” dating 8 years apart And, like the animated film, Aurora is swiftly taken away to a hideout in the woods by three good fairies, who promise to keep her hidden for sixteen years plus one day, in an effort to outwit the curse and keep Aurora from pricking her finger on that deadly spinning wheel. In this version, Maleficent discovers Aurora’s whereabouts right away. She watches as the little girl grows older. Eventually, she manages to bring Aurora inside the enchanted forest, where Aurora mistakenly believes that Maleficent is her fairy godmother.
In time, Maleficent’s cold evil heart is softened by Aurora’s innocence, and she tries to lift the curse, but she cannot. Only “true love’s kiss” will do the trick. Heartbroken over what she’s done, Maleficent assumes the role of fairy godmother and protector, and loves Aurora intensely. Meanwhile, King Stefan is growing increasingly insane and paranoid, and vows to kill Maleficent by any means necessary. Somehow, this film about one of the most wicked fictional characters of all time, manages to turn her into a sympathetic character. A victim, really. Any perceived evil she had done was the fault of the tyrant King. Fast forward to Aurora’s 16th birthday. Aurora discovers her true identity, and also learns that Maleficent is the one who cursed her. She breaks Maleficent’s heart by accusing her of being “the source of evil in the world” and runs away to the castle. Upon her arrival, crazy King Stefan recognizes his daughter and locks her away.
Maleficent, who is now portrayed as having become good again, goes to the castle to save Aurora from the fate caused by Maleficent’s own curse, but she arrives too late. Aurora has already pricked her finger, and is locked in an eternal sleep. In an effort to save her, Maleficent brings a handsome young prince to Aurora’s bedside (Aurora had previously met him in the forest and apparently thought he was dreamy) and tells him to kiss the Sleeping Beauty, which he does. Unlike the original story, the kiss does nothing to awaken the princess. She remains comatose. Maleficent is racked with guilt and grief and promises to never let any harm come to the girl.
As a last gesture, she leans down to kiss Aurora’s forehead, which… you guessed it… wakes the Sleeping Beauty. The “True love’s kiss” was not from Prince Charming in this tale, but from the wicked witch who had been responsible for the curse in the first place.
Our story is not yet over. Aurora asks Maleficent if she can come live in the forest with her, and Maleficent agrees. They attempt to escape the castle, but crazy King Stefan catches them and a battle ensues. Maleficent uses her magic against the King but it is to no avail. She even conjures a dragon, but it is no use because the King has discovered Maleficent’s one weakness… which is that iron burns her skin. He traps her in an iron net. Meanwhile, Aurora is running through the castle and discovers that King Stefan has kept Maleficent’s disembodied wings as a trophy all these years. Aurora breaks the wings out of their locked container, and the wings promptly fly to Maleficent, reuniting with their host, and Maleficent’s full power is restored. In an incredible scene, Maleficent crashes through an enormous stained glass window, her wings spread wide as she flies away to freedom with Aurora. This scene is in slow motion, I presume so that the symbolism is not lost on the audience.
In the last scene of the film, the garden is restored to harmony and Aurora is crowned Queen of both the fairy and human realms. Maleficent is once again in her full winged glory. In a breathtaking final scene, she flies through the clouds and stops just short of the sun, her wings spread wide with her face tipped toward the heavens. The narrator proclaims that sometimes, a person can be both a villain and a hero.
At this point, I imagine that many of you are thinking what I was thinking. In fact, almost from the very beginning of this film, I felt uneasy. This tale unfolded almost as if Lucifer himself had written an apologetic about how misunderstood he is.
From the beginning we see magical creatures living in harmony until an evil tyrant becomes jealous of their beautiful and carefree existence. The innocent fairy (angel?) seeks only to befriend a human, but is betrayed both by the tyrant and the human. As punishment for simply being beautiful and magical, the magnificent winged creature is violently punished by having her precious wings removed. She is metaphorically cast to earth and can no longer enjoy flying through the heavens, because she can no longer fly.
Because the creature has been relegated to an earth bound existence, she sets up her own earthly kingdom where she reigns. Everyone considers her to be evil, but that’s only because of the tyrannical king and the dimwitted humans, who simply do not understand her, and have made her life a living hell.
In the end, it is this banished creature that is the savior of mankind. She becomes the hero, uniting the magical realm with the human realm. The young human’s (Aurora) reward for believing in the winged creature is that she is elevated to the status of queen. The tyrannical king is dead. Aurora takes his place. Her reward for trusting Maleficent is to be given a godlike status. And Maleficent (Lucifer?) is once again free to fly through the heavens in full glory. This is the final scene:
“How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12)
In 1968, The Rolling Stones released a song titled “Sympathy for the Devil.” It is sung by Mick Jagger as a first-person narrative from the point of view of Lucifer. I couldn’t help but hear the refrain from that song in my head as this film unfolded. “If you meet me, have some courtesy, have some sympathy, and some taste; use all your well-learned politesse, or I’ll lay your soul to waste.”
Certainly, Satan and his minions have launched a propaganda campaign in an effort to portray themselves as innocent victims of a tyrannical God. Throughout New Age philosophies and secret societies, we see Lucifer portrayed as a light bringer, giver of knowledge, misunderstood and misrepresented by a world that simply doesn’t understand his true sacrifice. We see this more and more in pop culture. L.A. Marzulli wrote about this very issue on his blog in a post titled, “Ancient Aliens – Satan is misunderstood?” Within, L.A. describes how the History Channel’s popular Ancient Aliens series dedicated an entire episode to how Satan might not be such a bad guy. He quotes David Childress as saying:
In a sense, Satan’s not such a bad guy. You can’t have light without the dark. You can’t have right without wrong. And we have to learn these things for ourselves, and ultimately, through choice wrong and right, we grow and we become who we are and ultimately to be like our makers, to be gods ourselves.” Full post here: http://lamarzulli.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/ancient-aliens-satan-is-misunderstood/
This is precisely the narrative that I feel comes across in the film “Maleficent”. Although I’ve described the film in detail, I do believe it is something that must be seen to be believed. If anyone out there sees the film, I’d invite you to leave a comment here on this post. I’d like to know if I’m the only one who noticed this hidden (or not so hidden) story line behind what is being presented as a fantasy tale. The closing line of the film, admonishing the audience to understand that sometimes you can be both a villain and a hero, could easily be printed on Satan’s business card.
“No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14
Author and Apologist Cris Putnam went to see Maleficent, and added his insights here: