Maleficent review: Angelina Jolie gives a diva-like performance

Film could be scarier as Jolie flits between Ava Gardner and Cruella Deville

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The Independent Culture

As a rule, you want your wicked witches to be wicked. Maleficent, a film which exists in an enchanted nether land between animation and live action, boasts gorgeous 3D visuals and a striking, Diva-like performance from Angelina Jolie.

It is a re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, from the point of view of the villainess. Jolie’s Maleficent looks evil enough, consorts with ravens, causes the heavens to rumble and puts a terrible curse on poor young Princess Aurora after not being invited to her christening.

The hitch is that she can’t work out whether she is a vengeful Madame Lucifer or a good natured fairy godmother in a black dress and horns.

As the fairy queen, she has a far purer heart than the greedy, envious humans who want to invade her moor land kingdom.

With her sculpted cheekbones and red lipstick, she is more Ava Gardner than Cruella Deville. That means the film is never quite as scary as might have been anticipated.

At least, there are plenty of incidental pleasures along the way. Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple cluck and fuss to fine comic effect as the squabbling pixies who take Aurora (Elle Fanning) in tow.

Nor does the film have quite the level of phantasmagoric perversity that Tim Burton (originally slated to direct) might have brought to the same material. There is real poignance, though, in the way in which Maleficent loses her wings - and with them a crucial part of her powers.

It is impossible not to see her misfortune in the light of Jolie's own recent experiences. Jolie's glamour and star power are undiminished. She has an old world glamour and screen presence that leaves many of the rest of the characters here looking wan and one dimensional.

This is a knowing and witty re-invention of an old fairy tale that looks as if it owes as much to Marina Warner and Angela Carter as it does to Disney - it is just a pity that the malevolence in in such short supply.

Robert Stromberg, 97 mins, starring: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville

Read more: Angelina Jolie brings your childhood nightmare to life

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