Once upon a time, there was an entertainment staple known as the character we loved to hate. Memorable villains didn’t necessarily have complicated backstories designed to arouse sympathy and present them as misunderstood — they were just really good at being really bad. That’s changed in recent years, between prequels and spinoffs and the zeitgeist in general. George Lucas was bent on trying to turn Darth Vader from evil to tragic, whether “Star Wars” fans liked it or not. “Wicked” tweaked the black-and-white (and green) conflicts of “The Wizard of Oz,” and Sam Raimi’s “Oz the Great and Powerful” followed suit. “Wreck-It Ralph” even tossed classic videogame baddies into a support group together, poor guys.
Now comes “Maleficent,” with Angelina Jolie giving us a deeper, live-action look at Disney’s demon-horned “Sleeping Beauty” villainess. Jolie is joined in the effort by rookie director Robert Stromberg, an Oscar-winning production designer with a filmography that includes Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and Raimi’s “Oz,” and writer Linda Woolverton, whose Disney resume includes “Alice” and “Beauty and the Beast.”