I was invited to a Disney movie premier in D.C. last night. I can't believe I'm writing this, but Maleficent could end up being one of my favorite films of 2014. Here are my spoiler-free reasons why:

Compelling Characters: The focus here is getting to know Maleficent and empathizing with her along the way. The writers took a lot of care in the way they portrayed the character and Angelina Jolie was certainly up to the challenge. The trailer and promotional materials show us a Maleficent that always looks and acts evil — not the case; there is a kind-hearted and less menacing Maleficent (pictured above) that is truly worth getting to know. Diaval (the shape-shifting crony crow) provides some grounded comic relief, but not in a way that's cheesy or over-the-top. Also, young Maleficent is adorable.

(Adjusted) Story: You think you already know this story from the VHS that played on repeat when you were seven? Think again! Without giving too much away, this version deviates from several of the major plot elements of the Disney original. These decisions were risky and may upset some purists, but I enjoyed the fresh direction and outcome.

Advertisement

Visuals: The film premier was in 3D... I never opt for 3D movies, so I wasn't happy about putting the glasses on. I quickly forgot because the scenery was so beautiful and immersive — it never felt gimmicky or distracting.

Summer unofficially kicks off this weekend, but I'm already nominating Maleficent as one of the best summer flicks. I typically don't make it a priority to see Disney movies, but I recommend giving this one a chance.