Reel Life: Maleficent and The Choices We Make

Maleficent 1

Release Date: May 30, 2014

Cast:  Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley

IMDB Synopsis: A beautiful, pure-hearted young woman, Maleficent has an idyllic life growing up in a peaceable forest kingdom, until one day when an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal – an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces a battle with the invading king’s successor and, as a result, places a curse upon his newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Maleficent realizes that Aurora holds the key to peace in the kingdom – and perhaps to Maleficent’s true happiness as well.

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Life is all about choices. Think about it…from the moment we wake up, we are making choices. “Do I push the snooze button one more time?” “What do I wear to work today?” “What’s for breakfast?” On and on throughout the day, the choices add up. Some days, they are pretty simple and don’t vary from the realm of meal planning or scheduling conflicts. Other days, the choices are harder. The decisions go deeper and emotions, relationships, and convictions come into play.

Truthfully, when we get to end of our lives, it will be our choices, both big and small, which will define us.

I found the same to be true in this film. In the original Disney cartoon, Maleficent is DEFINITELY defined by her choice…to be evil. She is one of the great Disney villains, known for the lengths she was willing to go in the name of vengeance. Is this new film, Maleficent’s origins are explored, and the audience comes to understand the woman behind the villain.

For the lovers of the original cartoon, her story is unexpected. Growing up innocent and loving, Maleficent’s heart is shattered by an act of betrayal. Losing her beautiful wings which leave her with both physical and emotional scars, she sets about on a path of bitterness and vengeance, targeting the man responsible. Hoping to inflict as much pain upon King Stefan as he did upon her, she places a horrible curse on his daughter. In this moment of pure rage, she seals the princess’ fate, making sure that no power on earth can undo what she has done.

But this is where the story gets beautiful…

Maleficent begins to spend time watching the child, and as she grows, Aurora embraces the world around her with open arms and an innocent heart. When the two finally meet, they become unlikely companions with the embittered Maleficent learning how to smile and laugh again thanks to the whimsical Aurora. It’s as if she sees a portion of herself, now lost, when she looks into the eyes of the young girl. Because of her growing relationship with the child, Maleficent tries to break the curse she set upon the princess. However, words have power, and there is nothing that can be done…except for maybe true love (this is a Disney movie, after all!).

Maleficent makes some bad choices. She chooses to hold onto bitterness. She chooses to seek after vengeance. She chooses to curse a helpless baby on her christening day. It is these choices that define her as a villain.

Even more importantly, are the other choices she makes. She chooses to watch over Aurora as the young girl grows. She chooses to seek out a way to try and end the curse. She chooses to end the feud that began many years ago when her wings were stolen. And it is these choices which also define Maleficent as a hero.

The same is true for us. We are both the heroes and the villains in the tales of our own lives. We make bad choices…I make them on a regular basis! And some of these choices have far more lasting consequences than others.

However, it is the beauty of Redemption which allows for our poor choices to be undone. We also can choose to forgive, to love, to show mercy, to reconcile, to sacrifice, and to see other people for who they really are.

Ultimately, this is what Maleficent’s story and our stories are about: Redemption.

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