Admittedly, this is really Jolie’s show, and she’s clearly having a blast when the movie lets her act instead of devouring her with the scenery. Jolie, when given the opportunity, can give great performances, but that seems secondary to what Stromberg is trying to accomplish. She’s a vehicle for set pieces and moving to new locales. Maleficent is a perfect fit for this movie not because she’s a good character for a redemption story, but because she can conjure CGI animation. The best scene in the film (and the one that’s in almost all of the trailers) is the recreation of the christening scene from Sleeping Beauty. It’s on a practical set with very few visual effects, and it’s mainly an interaction between Maleficent and Stefan. The scene with the greatest impact isn’t the one filled with CGI wizardly; it’s the one that relies on human performances.
I’m not against movies with plenty of CGI because most blockbusters are these days. Green screen is the present-day matte painting. But those paintings and effects are meant to service the story, not vice-versa. The movie has a worthwhile take on a famous character because villains can be more interesting when they’re misunderstood rather than bad for the sake of being bad. Maleficent is one of Disney’s best villains, and this film had the opportunity to give her new life. But Maleficent isn’t really an adaptation of Sleeping Beauty. It’s an adaptation of a screen saver.