The effect of Lana Del Ray’s torchy, slow ballad rendition of the traditional Sleeping Beauty love song Once Upon A Dream over the end credits of this chilling revenge fantasy is nothing short of macabre. No happy lovers here, no young woman awakening to sexual maturity from the kiss of true love. The peaceful resolution promised in the trailer amounts to a girl-child’s life sentence to a fairy land under the thumb of her terrifying, horror queen, quasi mother, Maleficent, whose rage conquers all. Even daddy is destroyed, while his baby, Aurora, smiles and proclaims her enduring love for his out of control murderer. Is it the Stockholm syndrome?
This version of Sleeping Beauty certainly is not appropriate for children, who will be frightened by the unrelenting fury of mother Maleficent and the violent destruction of all the men in the story. No forgiveness, even for the daddies, or perhaps especially for the daddies, who are portrayed as merciless predators of fairy girls.
The excuse for this murderous rage begins when, as children, Stefan, a human, and Maleficent, Queen of the Fairies, fall in love. But they reach adolescence, and Stefan prefers a human lover to his fairy girl, Maleficent, who chooses not to leave fairy land where she rules a host of strangely inhuman creatures in a distinctly unfeminine fairy land, mostly yellows and browns, carefully avoiding the pink and rainbow colors that human girls are so often fond of.
Human land is basically endless CGI soldier men bent on destroying the fairy forest out of shear malice and greed. Only a raging Maleficent stops these evil men in an epic battle, with a special burst of spite for the aggressively icky, man king.
Stefan grows up and becomes part of this depraved human world, inhabited by violent, hard men with iron weapons. Iron is the one fairy weakness because it burns their tender skin. He tricks Maleficent into thinking he is different, and then amputates her wings of power, although she still has lots of magic left over to wreak havoc whenever she comes into the land of men. Wounded by the treachery of the man she loved and trusted, she vows vengeance.
When Stefan, now king, fathers a baby girl, Aurora, Maleficent’s jealous rage knows no bounds. In cold fury, she hurls a curse upon Aurora that will last until the end of time.
In spite of her rage, Maleficent finds herself drawn to the child Aurora, a snub nosed, smiley faced Sleeping Beauty, who mistakes her worst enemy for her fairy godmother.
However, this time, the girl-child is hidden from the father to protect her from the curse. But even Maleficent cannot protect her from growing up. Puberty arrives when Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger on spindle, falls asleep and can only be awakened by true love’s kiss.
There is a boy prince, and he is no more than a boy. Aurora and her Prince Philip have about as much maturity and sex appeal as Raggedy Ann and Andy. But this knight would be overwhelmed by shining armor and barely looks old enough drive a car, or have a drink, much less kiss a girl and awaken desire. And he fails, like all the men in this movie.
But wait for it! There is true love lurking in Aurora’s bedroom in the surprising form of Maleficent, who is evidently overcome with tenderness for the vulnerable girl-child. Her kiss awakens Aurora to something, if not desire.
By this time King Stefan has marshaled his evil forces to fight for his daughter, although for what purpose is not made clear. At this point, for reasons that are equally puzzling, King Stefan develops a pronounced Scottish brogue which makes him very hard to understand especially in the heat of battle, and what a battle. Hidden in her father’s castle, Aurora discovers and unleashes Maleficent’s wings, causing daddy to lose the battle and his life, whereupon Maleficent spirits Aurora away to the Fairy Forest and makes her a little queen in their regression back to childhood.
Maleficent’s beauty, a cold and heartless perfection, is the only kind of beauty permitted in this suffocating film. Maleficent flashes everything but fangs (but perhaps her kinky, razor sharp cheekbones serve the same purpose), as Mommie Dearest welcomes her little acolyte into the asexual, joyless world of permanent fairyhood. Big fun for Maleficent is throwing mud. All little girls like that, right?
The real Sleeping Beauty is freed by the kiss of true love to grow up to womanhood, a very happy ending, as all children long to grow up. Sadly, Maleficent’s Sleeping Beauty is exiled forever from mature love and sexuality to the Fairy Forest; a true death in life. She is a Fairy Tale anti-heroine who will never have a Red Riding Hood or amble happily into the woods alone on her way to Grandma’s house and dally with a wolf along the way, poor thing.