Dark and Dreary ‘Maleficent’ Trailer Could be the Change That Disney Needs

Anglina Jolie Maleficent

Disney has finally released the highly anticipated teaser trailer for Maleficent, giving us the first look at Angelina Jolie as the beautiful, intimidating horned villain to Elle Fanning’s Sleeping Beauty. If you can recall back to your childhood, the film tells the other side of Sleeping Beauty, from the perspective of the evil sorceress who put the curse on Princess Aurora that sent her into a charmed sleep only broken by true love’s kiss.

The teaser doesn’t offer much in terms of plot, but it’s a glimpse into a gorgeous, dark world far beyond the 1959 original. Gone is the bright, sing-songy storybook realm where Aurora and the good fairies lived peacefully until Maleficent’s curse; the new landscape is enveloped in shadows and guarded by thorns (and a boatload of CGI) – because we’ve entered the world how Maleficent sees it now.

The problem with the teaser is that it doesn’t give any hints to the actual story, which serves to humanize the villain and her reasoning for, you know, poisoning a 16 year-old girl with a spindle like it ain’t no thang. From Disney’s official 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 an epic 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.”

It all makes sense now – she’s a misunderstood fighter who does what she can to protect herself and her kingdom, even if it means cursing an infant to be doomed for all eternity. Although it sounds like in this version of the Sleeping Beauty tale, Maleficent realizes that she’s made a terrible mistake in targeting Aurora, at least.

This dark, foreboding kind of film is just what Disney needs to progress their image as their other divisions (like Marvel) continue to flourish. With 11 official Disney princesses – and another on the way – it’s time for a leap away from the sugary sweet. And what better way to do that then to give some villains their time in the sun, and with something else to do besides plotting how to steal the princesses’ prettiness?

Disney seems to know that they’ve got a good thing going with Maleficent, setting up a Cruella de Vil vehicle with the currently in-development Cruella. Though that plot is still yet to be revealed, one can only imagine it will center upon a poor seamstress whose livelihood was destroyed by a petshop owner, causing her to seek totally reasonable revenge later in life with that puppy fur coat. Are we entering an age of the villain movie? Disney has a large arsenal of colorful and outlandish villains to choose from, if they should choose to continue making these one-villain backstory movies: Ursula, Captain Hook, Jafar – terrifying people, fabulous costumes.

The fact is, Disney’s villains have a large and loyal following that rivals their heroes and damsels; check out the Disney Store website and you’ll see a section devoted to products and clothing emblazoned with the evil characters’ faces. ELF cosmetics released special palettes designed around the fiercest villains so that glamorous Disney fans could achieve their looks every day – you know you’d rather look like the Evil Queen than Snow White.

Disney has realized that though their original cuteness and kindness will likely never go out of style, the dark streak and snarkiness embodied in their villains has been embraced by a whole new generation of fans; why not market and cater to that in every way? Which is not to say that every film from here on out is going to be villain-based of course; just adding a bit of darkness to their lineup every once in awhile might shake things up at the box office, something that they should probably consider after this happened – and will definitely feel welcomed and fresh knowing that there are potentially eight Peter Pan reboots and The Jungle Book on the way.

Besides, haven’t they learned from their own characters by now that it’s going to feel pretty good being bad?

Maleficent is in theaters May 30, 2014.

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