“5 Reasons Why Maleficent Is The Best Disney Remake (& 5 Why It’s Cinderella)”
Disney’s live-action remakes of its classic animated films was kicked off by Maleficent and Cinderella, debuting in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Both films proved popular enough to warrant the same treatment for The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, though not all of those films captured their appeal. The former chose a revisionist approach to the fairy tale template, while the latter colored mostly in the lines.
Both films represent narratives that focus on typical Disney tropes like distant kingdoms, princesses, and princes that save the day, but their approach to them is very different. Some archetypes remain the same, while others are creatively altered to appeal to a modern audience. Here are five reasons why Maleficent is the best Disney remake (& five why it’s Cinderella).
10 MALEFICENT: A DIFFERENT TAKE ON A FAIRY TALE
Maleficent is to the cavalcade of Disney live-action remakes as Iron Man is to the MCU: the first film of its kind that did well enough to guarantee the creation of all the rest. It succeeded because it decided to take the traditional Sleeping Beauty story and alter it with a refreshing twist.
Maleficent was changed into an antihero and given a backstory, which made her a villain who was a victim of circumstance, not someone born to be bad. The rest of the characters were given agency outside of their tropes, which made for a slightly more modern story that will not be harmed by repeat viewings.
9 CINDERELLA: AMAZING COSTUMES
One of the aspects of Cinderella that is most praised is the costuming. Sandy Powell and her team of designers made some truly magical garments that reflected each character’s narrative progression through the film. She made sure to keep classic elements from the animated version as well as add historical/period concepts.
As one of the first Disney live-action remakes, the film had a high bar set by Maleficent, but it managed to create an entirely different mood and feel just by its costuming. It never felt cheesy like Mirror, Mirror or overly extravagant like Aladdin.
8 MALEFICENT: MORE WORLD-BUILDING
Unlike Cinderella, which added very little to the classic story’s world, Maleficent focused on expanding the breadth of its fictional world by moving beyond Sleeping Beauty’s castle and into the forest beyond. The Moors look nothing like in the animated film, and are populated by all sorts of mythical creatures.
There are even different types of faeries, and the inclusion of the race of Dark Fae that Maleficent belongs to adds another layer of depth to the world. It seems like a fully realized place that could exist as a fairytale kingdom, not cut off from the rest of the world. For a fictional setting it seems quite real.
7 CINDERELLA: BETTER VILLAIN
While many viewers thought Maleficent, Mistress of Evil would be the villain in her own film, that proved not to be the case. The villain was in fact a greedy king who sought to use her for her magical powers, pillage the Moors for its resources, and destroy all fairy life. He was rather onetime and largely unthreatening, lacking in charisma and power.
The Evil Stepmother character was much more insidious and clandestinely nefarious. She was not outright intimidating because of her charm, but her powers of manipulation were far more terrifying than her more overt displays of power.
6 MALEFICENT: ANGELINA JOLIE
There’s no denying that the casting of Angelina Jolie as Maleficent was sheer perfection. Her screen presence is unrivaled, and she is able to express so much charisma and emotion with just a glance. Acting in prosthetics can be difficult for actors but Jolie made it seem natural.
You can tell in the film she relished the role, performing with her signature aplomb. The original performance (incidentally voiced by Eleanor Audley who did the Evil Stepmother in the animated Cinderella) would be difficult for anyone to transfer into a realistic portrayal but Jolie pulled it off.
5 CINDERELLA: CATE BLANCHETT
Like Maleficent, the character of the Evil Stepmother is easy to overdo and turn into a campy caricature. But with an accomplished actress of stage and screen like Cate Blanchett, it never came across as cheesy or over-the-top. She strikes a fun balance between melodramatic and sophisticated.
The role also calls for sensitivity and nuance, as it demands she be not only power-hungry, but an emotional abuser of the highest caliber. Blanchett tactfully made the character narcissistic and sociopathic, a victim in her own mind just trying to gain what she feels entitled to.
4 MALEFICENT: SPECIAL EFFECTS
Certain visuals used to only be possible in animated films, where the power of the medium allowed artists to create moments like Maleficent transforming into a giant fire-breathing dragon, or giant walls of black thorns shooting up to encroach a castle.
With modern special effects, the most magical ideas in the world can be created for a live-action adaptation, and the ones in Maleficent are particularly noteworthy. Not only are they used in transformation processes, but they’re also used in more subtle ways, like making the wings on Maleficent’s back look like she was born with them.
3 CINDERELLA: BETTER CAST
With Lily James of Downton Abbey fame, Richard Madden from Game of Thrones, Helena Bonham Carter, Stellan Skarsgård, and Cate Blanchett, the cast for Cinderella was of high caliber. Directing such fine thespians was actor/director Kenneth Branagh, whose unrivaled understanding of theatricality was used to great effect.
Maleficent benefited from a strong lead, but much of the task of making the premise compelling fell to Angelina Jolie, with some support from Elle Fanning as Aurora and Sam Riley as Diaval. The other cast members disappeared into the background, including familiar faces like Miranda Richardson and Peter Capaldi.
2 MALEFICENT: MORE REALISTIC AND COMPLEX
For all of its amazing special effects, extravagant costuming, and fairy tale tropes, Maleficent did its best to subvert expectations. It began by imbuing its female lead with a tragic past in the first act, turning her into a villain for the second, and redeeming her with an antihero turn at the end.
Maleficent is not a stock villain — she suffered great betrayal, and a violation of her body and mind. Though she makes others suffer for her pain, she ultimately realizes that she must set herself free if she’s ever to open herself to love again, which proves to be the most powerful magic of all.
1 CINDERELLA: HONORED THE TRADITIONAL FAIRY TALE
Cinderella is a genuine retelling of the animated film, with more in common with Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Jungle Book in terms of turning animated scenes from classic Disney titles into live-action sequences. That being said, it’s done beautifully, if a little unimaginatively.
For those fans that don’t want a revisionist perspective of their fairy tales, Cinderella nobly keeps to tradition. It’s a dependable story with the same sense of magic, wonder, and “happily ever after” that audiences come to expect from their Disney films.
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