In MALEFICENT, Angelina Jolie brought Disney's most wicked fairy queen to life. Now, in MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL, she returns, with black wings and razor-sharp cheekbones, to menace all who seek to dominate her fairy realm — and to stare down anyone who tries to influence her goddaughter, Aurora (Elle Fanning).
It may sound wild for a character best known as a major villain, but Maleficent really just wants love and peace. Her past is defined by acts of duplicity and violence. She will fight to protect everything she sees as hers. That includes Aurora, who, years after the events of the original film, is falling into the orbit of the devious and power-hungry Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). With tickets now on sale for MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL, let's look back at the affairs and betrayals that turned the fairy queen into our favorite figure of evil.
Note: We're going to talk about the 2014 MALEFICENT in some detail, so be ready for spoilers below. We won't reveal anything about the new movie beyond what is in the trailers, however.
Love and trust are at the root of Maleficent's story. The character was introduced in SLEEPING BEAUTY as a jealous and evil fairy queen, who curses Princes Aurora to die on her 16th birthday. The good fairy, Merryweather, manages to modify the curse so that, instead of dying, Aurora will fall into a deathlike slumber, from which she can only be broken by true love's kiss.
In the original animated film, we don't know much about Maleficent. In 2014, however, MALEFICENT filled in many details, so that we understand the depths of her anger. With Angelina Jolie in the role, we saw the winged fairy fall in love with Stefan (Sharlto Copley), who eventually abandons their affair with little explanation. That betrayal is minor compared to Stefan's most dire action, however. Upon learning that the dying King has offered the throne as reward for killing Maleficent, Stefan lures her to a secluded location, and prepares to snuff his old flame. Stefan cannot deal the final blow, but he does cut off Maleficent's wings as "proof" of her execution, and ultimately takes the throne.
Angelina Jolie's performance of the moment in which Maleficent realizes the violent extremes of Stefan's betrayal may be the most powerful scene in any recent Disney film. MALEFICENT plays like a dark fairy tale and that scene is heartbreakingly raw and bleak. When the emotionally-hardened fairy later turns up to curse Stefan's daughter Aurora at her christening, her vicious but calculated wrath is really directed at Stefan. The spiteful allowance that Aurora could be woken by "true love's kiss" is a callback to her memories of being discarded by the man who is now king. Maleficent might have been somewhat wicked, but she wasn't always evil, until the possibility of love was literally cut away.
As played by Jolie, Maleficent is not unrepentantly evil. After Aurora was placed in the care of three pixies, which her father hoped would protect her from the curse, the dark queen began to look in on her young victim. Interest softened into fondness. Before too long, Maleficent genuinely cared for Aurora, and her life changed as a result. When Stefan tried to break the connection between his daughter and her "fairy godmother," he faced not only Maleficent's well-deserved rage, but a newly-developed maternal instinct.
Now, five years later, MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL tests that instinct even further. Aurora is now Queen of the Moors, and she protects her godmother's realm. She's also about to marry. A union with Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) of Ulstead could bring the human and fairy kingdoms together in peace, at long last. But Phillip's mother, Ingrith, has designs of her own. As Ingrith works to gain influence over Aurora, Maleficent's anger begins to rise once again.
Now, as tickets for the film go on sale, Disney has released a new video highlighting Jolie's approach to the role. Check it out for a few more insights into the nature of Maleficent.
How will Maleficent's wicked leanings affect her desire to be a mother figure for Aurora? Can she battle Ingrith without breaking the relationship with her daughter figure? And will Disney's dark queen be able to hold on to the love that has eluded her so often? We'll find out in October!
All images courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.