Something about Disney’s new movie “Maleficent” made me very uncomfortable.
And it’s not just the classic villain’s story being retold from the villain’s point of view (frankly, I think it a creative touch) or the twin-horned, demonic look of the character herself (if I can enjoy Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Maleficent” is child’s play).
No, what disturbed me about “Maleficent” – a name that means, according to Dictionary.com, “doing evil or harm” – is … well … I’ll let you be the judge.
As an experiment, I’ll recap Disney’s “Maleficent” in narrative form, and see what you think of the tale:
The old story you’ve heard of a sleeping beauty and an evil witch is not really as it appears.
For that “witch” actually began as a lovely girl named “doer of evil,” the greatest and most beautiful of the heavenly beings, until the evil king in this story stripped her of her wings and cast her to earth.
Consumed by vengeance over this betrayal, she installs herself as the pagan queen over the supernatural world, aided by her servants, including “Balthazar” (the last king of Babylon, according to the Bible’s Daniel) and “Diablo” (though named “Diaval” in this version of the tale, as though that somehow sounds less like “devil”). Her life’s aim: To get vengeance upon the king by cursing and destroying his child.
From that day forward, she watches over the king’s beloved daughter and waits for the day of her revenge, lurking in the shadows, for to reveal her true self to the child would only make the girl afraid.
Yet in the end, the queen of Babylon, riding upon a black horse she later turns into a dragon, comes to the princess’ rescue.
For after all, neither the prince nor the girl’s wicked father truly love the princess, but only the evil queen.
And in the glorious ending, once the queen vanquishes the evil father and is given her wings back and allowed to rise again to the heights upon the glorious sun of morning, she makes the princess into a queen and allows her to live forever in fairy land.
I know I said I’d let you be the judge, but the only real “fairy land” in this story is the residence of those who believe the queen of Babylon will actually surrender her crown upon vanquishing the Father.
Look, maybe I’m overreacting. I recall all too vividly how I read way too much into Disney’s “Tangled” and botched that review terribly.
Maybe this is just a creative retelling of the fairy tale that only coincidentally uses biblical terms and satanic imagery to make Maleficent seem evil.
Maybe I should just say that Angelina Jolie is magnificent as Maleficent in this mildly entertaining Disney movie with great special effects but a supporting cast that just couldn’t match Jolie’s performance and thus dragged the whole thing down to mediocrity.
But those familiar with the books of Daniel, Revelation and some of the other key passages of Scripture may wonder, like I do, why the movie so closely parallels the story of Satan (the son of the morning, the most beautiful of the angels, stripped of glory, cast to earth, concealed in the shadows, seeking revenge on the Father by destroying his children), biblical prophecy (the queen of Babylon, riding up on a dragon) and the lies of devil himself (“The Father does not love you, but follow me, and I shall make you like a god”).
If the filmmakers at Disney meant all these parallels, “Maleficent” is nothing less than propaganda stinking of hellfire.
If they didn’t … maybe they merely meant to play with themes of evil and didn’t realize how diabolical an idea they actually stumbled upon.
Still, was it really wise to play in this way?
I can’t help thinking of the old quote, “If you play with fire, you’re sure to get burned.”
- “Maleficent,” inexplicably rated only PG, contains neither profanity nor obscenity.
- The film has very little sexuality, only a few kisses, a small amount of cleavage and a shirtless man.
- The movie contains a few scenes that may be frightening to children, even if they have no fear of Maleficent’s appearance or wickedness, particularly in a few intense battle sequences that include fatalities and some wounds.
- The film has several instances of magic and spell-casting, though no incantations, rituals or overt satanic images are depicted. A creature does speak in an unintelligible language. A child is given a “christening,” though the ceremony is not shown. One character calls Maleficent a “demon.” Other spiritual/occult content is discussed above.