One of the most anticipated movies of 2014, Maleficent delivered beyond the expectations both at the box-office level and in the viewers’ hearts (out of the $170Millions used to make the movie, $70Millions were recovered in the very first weekend in theaters).
Once more, Angelina Jolie proves not only that she can take a motion picture beyond its wildest cashing in points but also that she can really act. She has her own commercial appeal, abundantly seasoned with action and thoroughly dipped in a love-hate indecisive blend. Maleficent is a very visual mix. And Angelina is a huge (successful) part of that.
You may go to the movies expecting something the trailers had promised. I do my best to watch movies without watching the teasers and keeping (as humanly possible) away from every and all information regarding the subject, the plot or the twists and trivia. Things are sensitively different with Maleficent as it’s a spinoff on a classic princess tale: ‘La Belle au Bois Dormant’, Charles Perrault Sleeping Beauty.
Basing the design on the original character drawings, Anna B. Sheppard, the head of the costume department assigned to this project worked a lot with Angelina Jolie to create a special, more modern take on the main character’s wardrobe. Special fabric with significant weight was cut in a sculptural manner. Specific colors were used to adapt to the story’s evolution whereas the simplicity and the style pattern of Maleficent’s entire dressy senses draws really close to Angelina’s personal approach of fashion.
The horns were actually a very interesting aspect to work on. For one, the makeup for Angelina Jolie took 4 hours for her to become Maleficent. As such, she would become this very tall creature with horns that would easily bump into things on set and could be damaged inbetween shots if the wearer or the participants weren’t extra careful about them – especially since the horns were cast in a special resin that made them extra light but very fragile too. Milliner Justin Smith worked with Anna Sheppard, special effects team led by Rick Baker and Jolie herself and concocted this special headdress with magnets that would keep the horns stuck on the headdress but still be easily removed between scenes (the special cheekbones prosthetics were made of silicone and Angelina assured everyone that they were just glued on and there was no pain whatsoever in wearing them or the horns).
The special care for details detaches itself from the designs used to dress the main characters – at one point, the young princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) is exploring the wall surrounding the Moors wearing a cape that is essentially similar to a cape worn by Angelina’s Maleficent character in her young years. That would instantly set a subconscious signal of familiarity and innocence, essential in the approach of that particular key scene. Anna Sheppard described in a interview how she imagined Aurora’s wardrobe:
‘I really walked away from that [animated] image [of Aurora] completely. I wanted something really girly and innocent and also closer to nature, […] very long, very fluid, and not sexy at all. […] So [the cape] its very similar coloring—of course, Angelina’s was more dramatic and bigger volume. But I wanted the hood because I think it also gives Aurora this little girl look.’
Details on Angelina’s costumes would signal the viewers that active scene would follow (tresses on Maleficent’s shoulders when fight scenes ensue and a leather body suit for the main combat scene). It is very clear that Angelina was closely involved in the making of these costumes as leather is one of her favorite things to wear. And so are apparently shapeless cloak-like attires.
For her first fight scene, she wears a layered silk green-ish attire almost mimicking the forest creatures she was there to defend. And the entire idea of pursuing Maleficent’s life from the wee days to her full development as a fairy and a woman was Angelina’s own. She suggested the seasonal costumes changes so specifically, that she precisely demanded faux fur trims for her winter cloak.
The black outfit worn by Maleficent for the (very festive) cursing scene was made from leftovers. Pleated fabric from a previous movie’s costumes designed by Anna B. Sheppard and the long train was made of leather (for no particular reason – there just wasn’t enough of the pleated fabric). The fantastic collars worn by Maleficent throughout the movie were created by Manuel Albarran (who explained he used ‘Feathers for flow and beauty, then the skulls in the middle for darkness and power’).
As if they were trying to make up for the lack of glamour and sophistication in the footwear created for the movie (mainly simple, Spartan booties with no particular details), Christian Louboutin designed a special kind of shoe called Maleficent. Angelina was seen wearing them during the press calls for the movie around the world. Whether in black, white or gold, Louboutin’s Maleficent shoes are pretty fierce and will definitely make a bestselling range for the designer.
From the original Disney animation, back in 1959 to present days, much has changed and fairy tales are always about shaping up personalities. Studies and sociologists indicated the direction to take and, surely, being Disney’s most beloved evil character, they went over their heads into changing the story and making a different Maleficent than what we grew up to expect of her.
And that’s a good thing. It shows that tales can adapt, grow and develop with the society, turning one of the most deranging clichés in fairy tales history into something with real substance. With ‘real love’. Sure, some will argue and say characters were out of profile, stories were less profound than they should’ve been. But overall, it’s a good visual experience for kids and grown-ups alike.
I’d like to wrap this up, forcefully, as I could go on endlessly about these topics which happen to be my favorite ones: fairy tales, myths, legends and their psychological & social reverberations, animations, fashion and movie costumes and, biensur, Angelina Jolie. If you haven’t already seen Maleficent, please keep an open mind and try to focus at the many clichés that are polished and reworked into meeting the real issues our society is dealing with (greed, thievery, hypocrisy, ambition, peace and balance).
If you’ve already seen the movie and missed the above, please revise some of the key scenes in your head and ask yourselves why are they so ‘different’, so ‘unexpected’ … And see the movie again, if you need to. This is not a movie about magic. It is beautiful visual story about human nature and restoring harmony. (unless otherwise specified and credited throughout the article, all the image included here were provided by Disney via press release)