Australian Council on Children and the Media

Maleficent

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Not recommended under 13; parental guidance strongly recommended 13-15 (Violence; Disturbing scenes and themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Maleficent
  • a review of Maleficent completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 2 June 2014.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes and themes
Children aged 13 to 15 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and disturbing scenes and themes
Children aged 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Maleficent
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Fantasy themes and violence
Length 97 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Maleficent is a fantasy adventure film that is a re-imagining of the Sleeping Beauty.  It follows the story of the bad fairy Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), beginning when she is a young fairy who believes in love, peace and compassion. Living in the Moors, a magical realm that has a human kingdom neighbouring it, Maleficent meets and falls in love with a young man named Stefan (Sharlto Copley). However, over the years, his human desire for power and greed take a stronger hold and the two lose contact.

The magic and human realms are soon at war, with the human king wanting to rid his world of fantastical creatures that hold more power and strength than he and his army. Promised that he will become king, Stefan sets up a false situation that enables him to get close to Maleficent, drug her and cut off her wings. She is incapable of flight but still magically very powerful.

Maleficent is blind with rage and, after enlisting the help of Diaval (Sam Riley), a crow that she turns into a man, she takes over the magical realm with her dark and evil magic. When King Stefan has a child, Maleficent sees an opportunity to take revenge and places a curse upon the child: although the princess shall grow in beauty and grace, before the sun sets on her 16th birthday she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel spindle and fall into a sleep-like coma from which she may only ever be awoken by true love’s kiss.

The king orders that his daughter Aurora be taken away and raised in the woods by three fairies, in order to keep her safe and away from any spinning wheels that may have escaped the purge he ordered for the kingdom. Over the years in which Aurora grows up, Maleficent finds herself looking after the girl from a distance - protecting her so that she survives to her 16th birthday. However, she quickly develops a strong fondness for the girl and now seeks to undo her curse.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Love and relationships; good and evil; fairy tales; war; power and revenge

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is substantial violence within the film, including:

  • There are several intense battle scenes, such as a battle between knights and fantasy tree-people that climb out of the ground – they are gigantic in size, with mouths that open and contain large teeth. The knights get thrown around easily by the tree-people. Before the battle, the king asks his knights to ‘bring me her head’ as he stands opposite Maleficent.
  • Knights fight a dragon. The dragon sprays fire everywhere and the room catches alight, injuring many of the knights.
  • Maleficent’s wings are severed – although viewers do not see them being cut away, the film shows the stumps where they once were and some traces of blood. Her reaction when she realises what has happened is very strong and upsetting.
  • After Maleficent erects a wall of living vines, King Stefan sends troops to set it on fire. The vines come to life and fight the men.
  • The fairy characters are frequently harmed by the touch of iron on their skin throughout the film – it leaves a burn, although it quickly fades.
  • When Maleficent is in the King’s castle during the final battle, King Stefan wears iron armour and throws iron chains at her. Once her wings are returned, she flies Stefan away to the top of a rooftop and punches him. She injures many of the knights along the way by running into them with her large wings.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • There is continued dark and malevolent use of magic within the film.
  • A huge forest of thorns comes to life, as does the wall of vines that Maleficent creates.
  • Some of the creatures are friendly, but look quite frightening – with vines and shrubs growing off them, standing very tall and holding weapons.
  • After Maleficent discovers that Stefan took her wings so that he would be king, she becomes angered and glows green, and lightning sparks begin to flow off her.
  • Maleficent turns Diaval into a very large and dog-like creature, with sharp teeth and a vicious growl to scare the knights away from the wall. She then raises the knights off the ground using her own powers, throws them around and bashes them into one another.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Maleficent and Stefan both discuss how their parents have died, but this is not shown.  
  • Children in this age group are likely to be disturbed by the placing of a curse on Aurora

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned violent and disturbing scenes

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes and themes.

Product placement

None of concern in the film, but there is associated merchandise aimed at children.

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

Maleficent and Stefan, and Aurora and a prince, kiss.

Use of substances

There is limited use of substances in the film, including:

  • Maleficent is tricked into drinking a sleeping potion, after which her wings are severed.

Coarse language

None of concern

In a nutshell

Maleficent is a film that depicts the fluid nature of, and complexities inherent within, the concepts of good and evil. Appropriately rated M, it is a dark and adult retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story with violent and disturbing scenes and themes which make it unsuitable for children under 13. The story of the troubled Maleficent raises a number of issues to discuss with teenagers, and parental guidance is strongly recommended for younger teens who may be attracted to the film and allowed to attend.

The film demonstrates that good people can often follow dark paths as a result of trauma and destructive factors outside of their control. It highlights the importance of forgiveness, the beauty of friendship and relationships, and the struggle people may face in their quest to be decent people in a troubled world.

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