In Which I Watch “Maleficent”

for AmSpec. I liked it more than their hed/subhed imply, but it’s not what the philosophers would call “good”:

My initial reaction on hearing that Disney was remaking Sleeping Beautyfrom the point of view of Maleficent was, “Oh God, not another one.” Batman, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Snow White: Must everything get a gritty reboot? I’m surprised the recent My Little Pony show wasn’t called “My Little Pony: Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death.”

And the villain’s-eye view is also really played out. Grimmed-up, self-pitying tales of misunderstood outcasts are everywhere these days, simmering with Nietzschean ressentiment. It’s like watching two hours of rationalizations: Other people never gave me a chance, you’d be like this too if you’d suffered like I have, I am secretly better than everyone.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Maleficent is almost a gentle film about repentance and what Alcoholics Anonymous calls “seeing your part”—accepting whatever degree of responsibility you bear for your own misery, even when other people bear a much larger share they’ll never admit. The epic final battle doesn’t take place between hero and villain, but between penitent villain and impenitent one. Maleficent is a film about maternal tenderness toward a child: about how responsibility for the next generation can cause us to reassess our own past actions and change our ways.

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