I've read some really thoughtful film analysis over here, so I thought I'd throw this to you guys. I saw Maleficent over the weekend, and I'm still kind of processing it. I can't remember the last time I really struggled with how I thought about a movie, but here we are. My thoughts are really scattered, so bear with me.
First of all, the thing that really fascinates me about Maleficent as a movie is that it absolutely failed in its objective of telling the Sleeping Beauty story from Maleficent's point of view. Meredith covered this pretty well, and while I don't have as many negative feelings about the movie, I will agree with her that as a retelling of a specific story, it misses the mark completely.
On the other hand, while it failed spectacularly in that way, it has succeeded in generating a conversation, specifically about movie tropes about women and female relationships therein. When I consume media, especially TV shows and movies, I almost always do it through a feminist lens because a. that's how I roll and b. that was pretty much my major in college (what a surprise). That being said, I do think Maleficent is thematically problematic because it employs the cliche jilted lover seeks revenge trope via Maleficent avenging Stefan's theft of her wings (an act that has rightfully been compared to a sexual assault). But then the movie takes over some other tropes and throws them out the window. I'm thinking specifically of how Maleficent is the one to kiss Aurora awake, and how Aurora is the one who essentially saves Maleficent from Stefan in the end by freeing the wings. I'm still trying to come up with the meaning, if any, to Aurora being the one who restores the wings to Maleficent if her wings being removed (by a man) is supposed to be symbolic of rape.
On top of all of that, there is some major lesbian subtext going on (although Maleficent being significantly older than Aurora is kind of squicky). But hear me out, especially because I'm not the only one who read it this way. There is the whole healing kiss thing, and to be honest, I thought Aurora was going to kiss Maleficent during the coronation scene at the very end, too. I know this just might be me wanting to queer every possible piece of media, but it's very easy for me to imagine Maleficent and Aurora ruling the fairy (faerie?) realm together as queens and lovers down the road. At any rate, if one thing is for sure, it's that Maleficent and Aurora love each other, although whether that's familial or something else is up to the viewer I suppose.
Finally, my girl Greenheart over on Groupthink wrote an amazing analysis of her own about Maleficent that discussed how the human and fairy realms are coded by gender, which adds yet another level of meaning to this movie.
I liked this movie, or at least I think I do. It's hard to decide, and I kind of love that I don't know how to feel about it.
P.S. I can't remember if I've seen the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty in its entirely, and if I have it's been so long I can't remember all of it. Therefore, I didn't have a lot of expectations going in other than Angelina Jolie being badass. I know a lot of people were upset that Maleficent didn't turn into a dragon at the end, but I didn't have any particular attachment to that, so I wasn't really bothered.