As the story goes, the princess has fallen into a deathlike sleep and can only be rescued by “true love’s kiss,” and in the classical versions of the story, that comes in the form of a prince who is confident in his choice to kiss the princess. But in “Maleficent,” the scene of Prince Phillip (Brenton Thwaites) kissing the sleeping Aurora plays out very differently.
First, he doesn’t fight his way into the castle and is instead brought to the sleeping princess’s door by Maleficent. Then, Phillip doesn’t “feel right” about kissing the sleeping girl. The fairies urge him to kiss her, assuring him that she’s under an enchantment and his kiss can save her, but he says while she is beautiful and he wants to kiss her, it wouldn’t be right to kiss a sleeping girl that he barely knows and only met once.
While he ultimately bows to the pressure and kisses her (which does not break the curse), this exchange between the young prince and the fairies serves a dual purpose: Phillip’s reluctance shows an updated understanding of consent on his part, and it’s a critique of the “love at first sight” trope, which is even name-dropped by the fairies.
It’s a funny and intelligent scene made even better by the fact that Maleficent’s apologetic kiss is the one that breaks the curse. “True love” isn’t romantic, here; it’s the bond between Aurora and her surrogate mother.