***/**** Image A- Sound A Extras C+
starring Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley
screenplay by Linda Woolverton
directed by Robert Stromberg
by Walter Chaw A gyno-centric reimagining of Disney's own Sleeping Beauty, visual-effects guy Robert Stromberg's directorial debut Maleficent (from a script by never-good Disney house-overwriter Linda Woolverton) takes all the ingredients for a horrible disaster and somehow wrestles a fitfully fascinating film from them. It hates men, that much is certain. Paints them as alternately servile and monstrous. Good men follow orders and are easily intimidated; bad men are sexually dangerous and violent. Good men know their place, led about on a tether and bullied into situations by women in groups or singly; and the rest, well...sufficed to say that Sharlto Copley, the most Ellis-from-Die-Hard human, is cast as chief BigBad, the good king Stefan. The film even goes so far as to suggest that romantic, heterosexual love is a sham, a dangerous one at that--something it tries to soften with a couple of doe-eyed exchanges during the epilogue, though I'm not buying it. In fact, had Maleficent truly committed to its themes of feminine empowerment and rage, had it linked them together hand-in-hand without entire agonizing stretches of Disney-fication, it could have entered into the same conversation as Tarantino's Kill Bills. Here's another film with a kick-ass female protagonist who finds strength in motherhood. Alas, for as often as it's great, it's limited by what its masters will allow.