The talk of Hollywood these past few weeks has been Maleficent, Disney’s new take on the Sleeping Beauty legend through the eyes of the villain. Angelia Jolie stars as the titular character, who dooms Princess Aurora to fall into a deep and everlasting slumber unless she can be awakened by true love’s kiss.
The plot doesn’t sound too terrifying, but have you seen Jolie as the cunning Maleficent? She looks absolutely horrifying at times, with her black horns, ethereal green eyes, and alien cheekbones. There were even stories coming from the set of the movie that Jolie scared all of the child actors when she was in makeup. That was the reason her own daughter, Vivienne, was cast. According to her, Vivienne “was the only 4-year-old who wouldn’t scream.”
All of this brings to mind one simple question: Is Malifcent too scary for your kids to watch?
It’s important to keep in mind the purpose of the film. It is a movie made-for and geared-towards children, so content should naturally be kid-friendly. Furthermore, the film does its best not to focus on Maleficent’s evil actions but instead focuses on what leads Maleficent to this path of self-destruction.
“You get to tell people why someone becomes evil,” said director Robert Stromberg. “You get to solve some of the mystery of what drove her to become the character we all know. It opened up the opportunity to see many more layers of that character – one of those layers being evil.”
Since the film isn’t showing evil for gratuitous and unnecessary reasons, children should be able to identify with and feel sorry for the main character instead of fearing her. They will see and understand her decline just as much as an adult might. It’s not that this makes her actions any less sinister, but it certainly takes the edge off them, making her less of a feared icon.
“The truth is it can’t be too dark,” Stromberg continued. “It is a huge Disney fairy tale come to life, and the key word is Disney. We had to make sure that we service a broad audience, and it can’t be targeted at one age group. There’s lots of dark in this movie. There’s also light in this movie. So I hope that it’s well-balanced.”
Even though Stromberg was going for darkness that would be appropriate for all ages, there really aren’t too many scenes that convey this feel. Most of the scariest bits appear in the trailer, and are spliced together to seem even more terrifying than they really are.
The film is rated PG, and deservedly so. There are several moments that might have your child gasping, such as when Maleficent’s wings are cut off or during the violent dragon battle scene. But overall, these scenes are definitely kid-friendly and won’t leave your children with lingering nightmares. Many of the violent parts simply suggest the hint of brutality without actually showing it. There is a refreshing lack of blood and hacked body parts during the fighting, and only once is a body (presumably killed from falling off a parapet) shown on the screen. Overly computerized graphics and quick editing cuts take away some of the realism and make things more idealized, similar to fighting scenes in an animated film.
So, back to the original question – is it too scary? We don’t believe it is. Any child living in today’s world should have no problem with the borderline violent scenes. Jolie somehow manages to pull off being charming and threatening at the same time, a combination which any parent would love to have. Will your child want a Fat Head cutout of Maleficent on his or her wall? Probably not. But will they be running away in terror every time Maleficent comes on screen? Definitely not. Overall, we might caution against showing the film to children younger than five or six, merely because of the sometimes loud sounds and intense action. Children older than this, however, should absolutely love the film and will be so happy you took them to see it!
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