Maleficent and Disney’s new direction

If you haven’t seen Maleficent yet, then you should. It’s a beautiful movie with gorgeous imagery, and strong characters. The plot is a nice twist on a fairy tale we all grew up with. And the ending has an epic battle worthy of the name.

They did a beautiful job of adding just enough prosthetic to Angelina Jolie’s already very expressive face. It gave her higher cheek bones, and made her seem leaner, almost gaunt, with wide mouth rimmed in red. In some scenes, especially those containing maniacal laughter, it was pretty amazing to watch. She embodied the evil Maleficent I watched when I was just a little girl. The scary dark fairy bent on destroying the life of the beautiful Aurora. She really made the movie what it was.

Now, beautiful scenery, characters that pop, and a plot that twists old stories and makes you wonder what is up and what is down… Lets just get into what I really love about this movie. I’m going to put it behind a break. DON’T READ IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS! (just a few of them.)

Disney has definitely taken a new direction. It started with Mulan, and the strong heroin that managed to defeat an army nearly by herself. While she did get help from her friends, and even found love, the main story of Mulan was the growth of Mulan, herself, and the changing view of what makes a woman a woman.

Then we had Tangled. Sweet little girl, sheltered her entire life, finally gets out in the real world. She had more help from her man then Mulan did, but the story did focus on her growth as a person, as well as the fight with the witch posing as her mother.

Then we had Frozen. Frozen leaped right out there and said “you don’t need a man! You can save yourself! You can save each other.”

Maleficent does much the same. It tells little girls that “loves true kiss” isn’t about sex, or men. It’s just about love. And love can come from your mother, or your father, or your sister… or in this case, your dear friend and god mother.

This is a FANTASTIC thing to show little girls. I was raised in the Disney era with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty being rescued by the handsome prince. They taught us that desirable men were handsome, princely, maybe rich, and always made you feel like a princess. In those days the women didn’t have a lot of personality. They were sweet, and kind, and gentle in every way. But beyond that life happened to them. They did not take charge.

Jasmine, the beautiful princess from Agrabah, was the first Disney princess that I remember who had real personality. She had her own hopes and desires. She had her own strong beliefs and she went out of her way to try and achieve them. Maybe her man still had to rescue her in the end, but it was because he loved her. Not just her beauty.

These movies, while being “female power” type stories, also have a subtle message for men. Women are more then pretty baubles to hang on your arm. And love is not about “protecting the fair maiden”, it’s about making a life together. Being a team.

While I love Disney’s new messages, I also hope they don’t swing too far the other way. Sometimes the man does save the day. Or it’s a team effort. Sometimes the story isn’t about the woman at all. But then, they may just be making up for all the years that their movies were about the man.

The last thing that I thought was pretty new for Disney was the use of a broken relationship as a main plot point. They did this a bit in Frozen with the prince who turned out to be an evil dude. But this time the man was much more vicious. Abusive even, in the end. And what’s more, he thought he was in the right. Abusers often do.

There were some things about this movie that could have been better. A few parts that seemed a little rushed. A few magical scenes where I just wanted to hover and take in the magic but they pressed on through it. But, for the themes and the story this movie is definitely one of my favorites. Please, do go see it.


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