...worrying and love TvTropes. Darnit, DA, why must you ruin my jokes with your title limits?
Anyway, this was a topic that came up in a conversation with one of my friends at work, as we had been discussing recent film adaptations of books and remakes of Disney animated movies, and I ended up mentioning two tropes that can be disastrous when they go hand in hand; "Draco In Leather Pants", and "Ron The Death Eater". If you've not heard of these before, the former is when an existing villainous character is written in a way that paints them in a positive/heroic light while ignoring their negative aspects, and the latter is sort of the inverse, where an existing good character is written in a way that highlights their negative side or even turns them into a full-on villain for the sake of the story. It's quite common to see these tropes used together in badly-written romantic "fix fics", where the whole purpose of the story is to promote an alternative romantic pairing, and a good example of this can be seen in the infamous musical "Love Never Dies"; Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to Phantom of the Opera, in which Raoul has become a bitter and abusive drunkard who's gambled away his fortune between stories despite none of these traits being part of his character in the original story, while the Phantom is nothing but sympathetic and heroic, and all mention of his stalking and murderous actions in the last story are not mentioned.
Now, talking about this led to discussion of another story that the two of us love to criticise; the film "Maleficent"; a film that also badly uses these two tropes. If you've not seen this film, it purports to tell the "true story" of Maleficent which was left out of Disney's Sleeping Beauty, in a way that instantly sounds reminiscent of the book and musical "Wicked", which both provide more character to the Wicked Witch of the West from the Oz series - although both in very different ways - and make her a semi-sympathetic figure in the process. However, Maleficent quickly deviates from this approach as in their "retelling" of the story, not only do certain scenes directly contradict parts of the original Disney film - for instance, both of Aurora's parents end up dead by the end of Maleficent, but they're alive and well in the original - but Maleficent herself ends up taking credit for just about every major action in the story; not only does she add the method of breaking the curse to her own spell, but she raises Aurora indirectly and comes to care for her to the point of trying to break her own curse, and it's her kiss that breaks the spell instead of Prince Phillip's. The problem with this sort of approach compared to Wicked's is that Maleficent's entire concept is to supplant the original story; after watching this, you can't exactly go back to the first film and enjoy it because this new film has just shown you that just about everything in it is a lie; the stories do not co-exist at all. Wicked, on the other hand, rather than supplanting the original story, augments it, by showing you that there was more going on behind the scenes that changes the context of the story, thus allowing you to still go back to the original film and enjoy it at face value, while also letting you go "Ahh, this is what's ACTUALLY going on in this scene!"
So, having said all that, I do have something positive to offer. Namely, a story treatment that shows how I think Maleficent could have been significantly improved; keeping the concept it presented us in the first part of the film, but telling a story that supports the original rather than forcing it aside.
As noted, I'd keep Maleficent's opening; as a young girl, she lives in a magical forest and falls in love with a peasant boy named Stefan, who later ends up drugging her and cutting off her wings when his King offers the throne to whoever can kill Maleficent, prompting her to swear revenge and later curse his newborn daughter at her christening ceremony. However, here's where I'd start changing things. As in the animated film, Maleficent would simply curse Aurora to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die, and after she leaves one of the fairies in attendance would soften the curse to simply one of deep sleep. The fairies would take Aurora into their care and hide her, while Maleficent would terrorise Stefan's Kingdom; her goal now simply being to not give him a moment's rest and to slowly tip him over the edge - since this unrest also makes his vassal Lords start talking of revolt, since Stefan got the throne under false pretences - while at the same time she falls more and more into the role of Dark Overlord.
Now, the story would change when Maleficent learns of Aurora's location shortly before her sixteenth birthday; she would travel to the woods to see things for herself, and would arrive in time to see Aurora dancing with Prince Phillip. This would remind her of her own carefree youth with Stefan, and in that moment she'd see herself in Aurora; she's punishing an innocent girl simply to further her own ends, making her as bad as Stefan. In that moment, she'd come up with a new plan that would allow her to still get vengeance, but in a way that leaves Aurora unharmed and free to live out the life she didn't get to live...
Anyway, next, as in the original film, she'd dazzle Aurora and get her to prick her finger on a spinning wheel, and then she'd ambush Phillip and take him back to her lair; chaining him up in the dungeons and claiming she'll eventually release him when he's an old man and let him go and rescue Aurora. However, this would be a lie; in reality, she's intentionally set things up so that the fairies coming to rescue Phillip will have an easy way in, and she's waiting to see what happens next before she acts. See, Phillip claims to truly love Aurora, but Maleficent can't be sure at this point whether he truly means that or whether he's just saying that because he wants to inherit the Kingdom, much like how Stefan claimed to love her only to betray her in the same way. Once Phillip is free, if he chooses to flee for his home, then she'll know he was no better than Stefan and will kill or recapture him and then use this to start a war between Stefan and King Hubert, one which she can intervene in to ensure Stefan loses, while all the while Aurora sleeps peacefully, waiting for someone who is worthy of her to wake her up. However, if Phillip risks everything to save Aurora, then she'll know that he does truly care for her, and thus she can be satisfied that Aurora won't end up walking down her same bitter path.
Now, as we know, Phillip does love Aurora and thus rushes to save her, which leads me to the final stage of Maleficent's plan...faking her death. No matter what choice Phillip made, Maleficent intended to use her magic to take the form of a dragon and pretend to be slain in battle, which would have the dual goal of allowing her to abandon her Dark Overlord identity and reinvent herself as the woodland fairy she once was, thus ensuring she lives happily ever after, while also screwing over Stefan once and for all...if Stefan ends up at war with Hubert, then she can offer her assistance to Stefan and kill him during the battle before pretending to die from her injuries, but if Phillip fights her to ensure Aurora's safety, she can pretend to be mortally wounded...something that would be witnessed by the people who aren't in Stefan's castle and affected by the sleeping spell cast by the fairies - at this point I should probably note that I figured naturally Maleficent wouldn't be aware straight away that the fairies had done this; she can't have anticipated their EVERY move, after all - thus meaning Phillip gets credit for slaying Maleficent, meaning Stefan loses the last of his support and has to stand down in favour of Phillip and Aurora, and can now die bitter and near insane after years of conflict with Maleficent...so no matter what, she wins and he loses.
...and that's how I'd have fixed a story like this. What do you think? Chances are there are some parts here that could be tweaked; this is perhaps the second draft of this concept and I only came up with it today, but for the most part I'd have been more impressed with the film if this had been the approach they'd taken with it...one where I can still watch the original alongside it instead of being forced to pick whose story is better.
...and now I see there's a sequel on the way? Ugh, this doesn't bode well...