I just saw Maleficent this afternoon with a friend, and I was excited. I grew up on Disney movies and even now in my late teens I still really enjoy Disney. But I was also intrigued because of several Christian articles I had read accusing Maleficent of glossing over, condoning, and even promoting evil, as the villain of the 1959 animated classic "Sleeping Beauty" is given a softer side. So I was ready to see the movie and weigh in to see if these critics were right.
After watching the movie, thinking of the context of the original, I don't think that these authors were right about Disney trying to promote or perhaps lighten evil. For two main reasons:
For one, the movie changes the entire plot of the original Sleeping Beauty. It is clear that the original Maleficent was pure evil-complete with a bird named Diablo (Spanish for devil), and controls the forces of evil/hell. If Disney had held to the same storyline but attempted to add a tragic past to Malaficent's life, that would be different. But because they changed the story, they were free to change the characters as well (as they did quite liberally).
Secondly, In the original story, Maleficent was evil personified. But in the new movie, Maleficent is a fairy who was betrayed and in her grief and fury became evil. But when the princess Aurora's joy melted her heart, she desperately tried to reverse her actions, but they could not be undone. Then she suffered the terrible consequences of her deeds, and finally is redeemed and repents and turns back from the way she was before. To me, it seems the story is not about justifying the chatacter's downfall, but is actually a story centered around the redemption of Maleficent.
When I watched Maleficent, I was struck by the amazing cinematography and acting, but mainly by the brilliant way they changed the story. I thought it was very well done. You don't have to go see it, but don't avoid it if you fear it is condoning Maleficent's evil behavior. It is a story of redemption, pure and simple.