Heroes and villains are archetypal characters in nearly all fairy-tale, adventure, and action stories. Audiences are persuaded to cheer on the protagonists and dislike the antagonists for their bad intentions. Storylines are curated to have an obstacle, usually involving the antagonist, which the protagonist must face.
For instance, DC Comic’s Batman focuses on Bruce Wayne, a superhero who identifies as the comic’s namesake. He is the hero of Gotham City and fights crime after witnessing the murder of his parents as a child. Batman’s archenemy is Joker, a psychopathic man who disguises himself with clown paint and dyed green hair. The story of Batman has evolved throughout the years and been adapted in various ways. However, in most cases, Batman was always the protagonist while Joker was his antagonist.
Disney’s Sleeping Beauty follows a similar hero and villain structure to Batman. Sleeping Beauty’s protagonist, Princess Aurora, faces her obstacle through her antagonist Maleficent, an evil fairy who can transform into a dragon. Sleeping Beauty’s premise is Maleficent casts a curse on Aurora as an infant, who can only be saved with true love’s kiss.
In recent years, movies showcase antagonists of classic storylines evolving into protagonists in their own self-titled films such as Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019). The movie depicts the villain as the main character. As a result, the new perspective shines light on the development of the villain, evoking empathy from viewers. By turning villains into protagonists, audience members will have a further understanding of their growth as characters.
In Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, the sequel to 2014’s Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning, the movie showcases Maleficent as an outcast in the Kingdom of Ulstead. Mistress of Evil focuses on Aurora’s engagement to Prince Phillip. However, Prince Phillip’s mother, Queen Ingrith despises all magical creatures living in Aurora’s kingdom, the Moors, her home shared with Maleficent.
Queen Ingrith hates Maleficent and spreads stories around Ulstead to remind the citizens that Maleficent cast a curse and kidnapped Aurora as an infant. Although Maleficent eventually woke her up and became a mother-figure to Aurora, Queen Ingrith evokes fear into the people about Maleficent’s evil nature. The movie revolves on Queen Ingrith as the antagonist to Maleficent.
The special effects were outstanding, between the prosthetic features for all creatures to the magic Maleficent uses, the entire movie was incredible. Jolie’s performance was impeccable. She showcased Maleficent as a protective mother who was also lonely as the only one of her kind. Even, when Maleficent met fellow dark feys, she still had walls protecting herself from strangers.
Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance as Queen Ingrith was veracious. As Queen Ingrith rules selfishly, audience members loathe her. Queen Ingrith ruins Aurora and Maleficent’s relationship with lies and tricks. She also harms her own family and creates war between the creatures of the Moor and dark feys. Pfeiffer demonstrated the immoral character with accuracy, and she was the hated antagonist.
The same story can be told many times in different ways, using contrasting viewpoints. As antagonists evolve into protagonists, the character development demonstrates a new perspective on the villain. Viewers are meant to dislike the villains, but instead, we are shown their personal struggles as victims of child and societal abuse. These movies illustrate characters aren’t born evil, they are moulded into a certain demeanor due to their development as children and adults.
What’s next for antagonists becoming protagonists? Will we see Reverse-Flash, Eobard Thawne, of DC Comic’s Flash, as the protagonist in his own film? Or will it be Ursula, of Disney’s The Little Mermaid? Whichever villain it is, a new protagonist brings the same storyline in a fresh perspective.