Not all villains begin with cruelty in their hearts and evil deeds in their intent. In the spirit of such tales as The Real Story of the Big Bad Wolf, the movie Maleficent gives us the villain’s side of the story and offers a different perspective on the Disney classic, Sleeping Beauty. In fact, we’re given quite a different story altogether.
Friendship and love are torn asunder when a peasant named Stefan revisits an old flame: Maleficent.
Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) has not always been the wicked sorceress with which we’re all familiar. Once she was a winged fairy. In the midst of adolescence, she befriends a young human boy, and they enjoy a friendship that for a time breaches the barriers between humanity and magical creatures, and eventually transforms into something deeper than friendship. But Stefan’s ambitions soon get the better of him, and he leaves his childhood sweetheart behind in his pursuit of prestige and wealth.
Maleficent, in the meantime, grows to become the protecter and guardian of the magical domain known as the Moors which she calls her home. The vigilance and vigor she demonstrates in her defense of the Moors earns her an undeserved reputation as a ruthless villainess, and her defeat is sought after by those who would achieve greater fortune.
Seeing an opportunity to realize his dreams, Stefan succumbs to temptation and fulfills his desire for power at the expense of his childhood sweetheart through a terrible act of treachery. The news of his deeds propel him to kingship.
It is this very betrayal that leads Maleficent down a dark path. Most of us remember the curse she brings upon the Princess Aurora, daughter of King Stefan, that when she is of age sixteen, she will prick her finger on a spindle and fall into a slumber which cannot end unless thwarted by true love’s kiss. We see this same scenario unfold again, but it’s resolution comes with a brand new twist.
What we see is an innocent girl caught between the pride of a father and the wrath of the one he wronged. It is a selfish feud in which no one wins. Stefan’s initial sin comes back to haunt him, and the consequences of his transgression takes the shape of Maleficent’s curse on his daughter. It is his greed and pride that started this cycle of evil, though the blame cannot be wholly laid on him, as Maleficent’s thirst for revenge extends the injustice even further. She exchanges one evil for another, a form of conduct that is rejected in the Bible.
“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.”
What I expected to find while viewing this film was an attempt to put a positive slant on Maleficent’s villainy. In actuality, nothing is said or done during the story to justify her selfishness or suggest to the viewer that her deeds are excusable. Quite the opposite, in fact. As matters come to a head, love will win the day, just not the way we expect it to.
Stefan, in an effort to avoid his daughter coming to any further harm at the hands of his enemy, sends his infant child away in the custody of three well-intentioned, though rather careless fairies. Stefan then orders all spinning wheels in his kingdom to be destroyed and initiates a hunt to track down Maleficent and extinguish her, perhaps believing that such measure will obstruct the fulfillment of her curse. However, Maleficent has made sure that nothing will stop the curse, except for true love. In this she thinks herself clever, seeing her stipulation a failsafe of sorts, as the betrayal of her former flame has led her to the conviction that true love does not exist and believes her perspective to be an incontrovertible reality. She’s about to be proven wrong.
Regarding King Stefan, it wouldn’t be hard to conclude that his efforts to bring down Maleficent are a continuation of his hubris which overshadows his intention to protect Aurora. He is fueled more by revenge and his hatred of Maleficent than he is by love for his daughter. His refusal to let go if his pride will cost him.
“Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.”
Maleficent’s belief that true love does not exist is put to the test. The afore mentioned fairies charged with overseeing Aurora are less than competent in their guardianship, and Maleficent, in spite of herself, winds up looking after Aurora (Elle Fanning) in her own fashion. Her benevolent nature begins to resurface, and even though she is the cause of Aurora’s eventual doom, she softens as she observes Aurora’s enthusiasm for life and the wonders it has to offer.
In Aurora, Maleficent sees the innocent, kind-hearted child she used to be. She comes to regret the implementation of her curse, and tastes the bitterness of her own vengeance. Overcome with remorse, Maleficent strives to undo her own evil, and it may be that the true love whose very existence she denies can be found within herself.
This new version of a classic film teaches a lesson which God’s Word proves true: revenge is not the answer. It is not for us to be the instruments of our own vengeance, because as fallible creatures, we often get it wrong. God, being our perfect Creator and more than able to rightly divide justice from injustice and shows no partiality is far better equipped in matters of vengeance.
“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Perhaps the film’s most triumphal moment is realized when in the heat of bitter conflict, a gesture of mercy is offered, nearly instigating me to literally cheer in my seat. Another Biblical passage may apply in this instance: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14).
While its general quality as a film might be debatable, as far as worldview goes, this puppy gets an A+ from me. Maleficent dispels whatever preconceived notions I may have had about it, and though it is much different from the beloved classic, its value can be easily recognized.
You can deny its existence all you like, but true love does exist, and whether you want it to or not, it just might change your life.