Is the star of Maleficent Angelina Jolie, or is it her cheekbones? They’re “the best part” of the Disney fairy-tale revision, according to Alison Willmore at Buzzfeed. The Atlantic’s Christopher Orr admiringly describes them as “so sharp and jutting that one could juice oranges on them.” The headline to Anthony Morris’s review for The Vine reads, “Angelina Jolie, 3D cheekbones shine in uneven Maleficent.”
Anecdotally, I’ve already had a few conversations with people wondering whether the bones are real, CGI creations, or something else. The answer is that they’re prosthetics. Makeup artist Rick Baker told Allure that Maleficent's cheekbones were inspired partly by the 1959 Sleeping Beauty character (“If you look closely, they actually follow the line of Maleficent’s cowl in the Disney cartoon”) ...
... and in part by Lady Gaga. The singer’s Born This Way-era look featured angular enhancements to her forehead, cheeks, and shoulders. (“They're not prosthetics,” Gaga said to Harper’s Bazaar at the time. “They're my bones.... They've always been inside of me, but I have been waiting for the right time to reveal to the universe who I truly am.”)
As Gaga’s example suggests, facial modification is a sure route to seeming otherworldly. But not all modifications are the same. Individual facial features carry cultural and biological connotations, a fact that fantasy and sci-fi creators must consider when coming up with new, unusual creatures. For example, the makeup artist Michael Westmore helped design the faces for many of the alien races on Star Trek by drawing from the animal kingdom: rhinoceros skin rolls for the tough Jem’Hadar, dinosaur-like ridges for the primitive Klingons.