Response to the movie Maleficent has been strikingly mixed. I’ve seen top reviews for it and ones that pan it. Even on Rotten Tomatoes, the Tomatometer rating is 49% and the Audience rating is 75%. Quite the variance.
Maleficent, if you don’t know already, is a very wide interpretation of the Sleeping Beauty story, -and I do mean very wide. The character, Maleficent, played brilliantly by Angelina Jolie, starts off as a very positive, good character. After experiencing a cruel betrayal, she casts a spell on the newborn daughter of the king, condemning her to eternal sleep on her 16th birthday. (I don’t think I’m writing any spoilers here, as the basic plot outline for Sleeping Beauty is common knowledge.) But at this point the plot diverges sharply. Suffice it to say that the rest of the movie has Maleficent regretting her curse.
At face value, the plot seems to be a simple fairy tale. The movie, acting and special effects are well done, with a good dose of surrealism to perpetuate the fairy tale atmosphere. But if you take a moment to reflect on the story, it takes on a depth which goes far beyond a simple fairy tale.
I was encouraged to see the movie after listening to a podcast by Jeff Salzman (Daily Evolver #93) where he talks about the post-modern and integral slant of the movie. Generally he says that, unlike classic fairy tales, there is no absolute good and evil in this story. There’s a transcendent quality in the reworking of this story that shows deeper perspectives behind good and evil, and how they need to be resolved in order to have a positive outcome. That’s a post-modern view of things.
He also briefly mentions Shadow Work, which is the interpretation that I found most striking in this film. If anything, this is a classic tale of Shadow Work in both the Jungian and Integral sense. It can be traced almost plot point by point, through the happiness at the beginning, the betrayal and the separation that occurs, even to the point of the building of a wall, to the acts of pure love and acceptance that diffuse the Shadow and lead to the ultimate outcome of resolution and happiness. I’ve simplified it here so as not to ruin the discovery process for someone watching the film, but even the final kiss to waken the sleeping beauty was delivered by the only person who could do so to fulfill the analogy of Shadow Work. I was so overjoyed that the writers got it right.
This may be why the film has such mixed reviews. If you are unaware of the deeper elements, or are just not really concerned with them, the story is your standard, run of the mill, fairy tale, -perhaps even a little cliché. However, if you are sensitive to the deeper currents in the film, whether you fully understand them or not, I think the film becomes a truly mythic tale with a deep moral. The fact that it can be interpreted on multiple levels makes it a successful Integral level film.
I would give this film an A-.