May 28th, 2014 12:01 am SAUNDRA SORENSON | Movie Reviews & Stories

Bad Fairy

Maleficent through the ages.

screen_4030(maleficent)Image courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Hell hath no fury like a woman denied an invite. That, arguably, is the moral of the Sleeping Beauty story. As the tale goes, the sprite that didn’t make the guest list still appears at the eponymous princess’s christening, but with a rather quirky gift for the royal baby: death. Disney downgraded the curse to a century-long coma, but the scorned fairy hardly gets gentle treatment—she’s a literal dragon lady.

That one-dimensional portrayal has held for the 55 years since the Technirama masterpiece was released, but now it appears Maleficent will have her day in court. Starring the angular majesty that is Angelina Jolie, Maleficent keeps the gothic aesthetic intact, but it remains unclear whether it will add dimension to anything other than the zygomatic bones.

Because the film didn’t screen by WW press deadlines (find a review at later this week), we’ve decided to look back at portrayals of Maleficent over the years—in the 17th-century fairy tale “Sun, Moon, and Talia,” Disney’s 1959 Sleeping Beauty and 1987’s straight-to-video offering featuring Morgan Fairchild and Tahnee Welch (yes, sprung from Raquel)—to examine how the evil fairy transformed from an abstract concept of doom into a leather-horned succubus.

The Original Tale (1634)
IMAGE: Henry Meynell Rheam
Evil Fairy: There is no evil fairy, but there is a rapist—who also happens to pass for a romantic hero. A king stumbles across comatose Talia and, boy howdy, does author Giambattista Basile try to write his way around what is a screaming lack of consent. The king loves her and leaves her...pregnant.

Origin of the curse: Talia is born with a bummer prediction already hanging over her head, with local astrologers predicting she’ll be undone by twine. Her father enacts what is perhaps history’s first across-the-board hemp prohibition, but Talia still gets a deadly splinter and passes out.

Cheekbone rating: Unknown.

Special flavor: Stockholm syndrome.

Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios
Evil Fairy: The bad seed of a limited fairy culture made terrible by ostracism. Even had she arrived at the party through more legit avenues, it’s doubtful she would have bestowed an adorable onesie or fanciful mobile on baby Aurora—more likely unbridled sarcasm.

Origin of the curse: A catty afterthought, plus zero impulse control. We’ve all been inspired to deliver a perfectly timed zinger, but we stop when we sense that the fallout—in this case, a teenage fatality—isn’t worth the fleeting pleasure. Not so for Maleficent.

Cheekbone rating: Dangerously high.

Special flavor: The Queen of All Evil is also the Queen of Passive Aggression, and she makes it delicious.

Sleeping Beauty (1987)
Image courtesy of Golan-Globus Productions
Evil fairy: Sylvia Miles peacocks as a campy, plate-smashing outcast. In fact, she opts to play it like a HOA rep in a Tampa subdivision, out for blood. To add insult to injury, she’s redlined from the guest list because the palace is one gold plate short. The plates are later revealed to be goldleafed ceramic.

Origin of the curse: Pure pettiness? Or a cocktail of Schedule III painkillers and pinot gris? Whatever her motivation, the Red Fairy lets fly an uninspired, free-association riff that’s meant as a hex. She does, though, pull off a decent mic drop, complete with pyrotechnics.

Cheekbone rating: Negligible, and heavily reliant on stage makeup.

Special flavor: Queen Morgan Fairchild.

Maleficent (2014)
Image courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Evil Fairy: Angelina Jolie, with retro sartorial sense and unprecedented access to Sleeping Beauty. She apparently stalks and then mentors Elle Fanning, eventually pulling the rug out from under her after espousing theories on the nature of evil.

Origin of the curse: Revenge, but with substance. If the trailers are to be believed, the titular character has a legit chip on her shoulder because the king vanquished her father’s Viking tribe, or perhaps hunted her troops of humanoid goons to near-extinction.

Cheekbone rating: Off the charts. Jolie’s facial structure could cut a diamond.

Special flavor: Lana Del Rey’s woozy, boozy cover of the Sleeping Beauty theme; humanity?

SEE IT: Maleficent is rated PG. It opens Friday at most major Portland-area theaters.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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