Angelina Jolie is back as the misunderstood baddie with horns, wings, and high cheekbones in the fantasy adventure Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.
In this sequel to the 2014 original (which itself is a revisionist retelling of sorts of Disney’s 1959 animated motion picture classic Sleeping Beauty), Princess Aurora (played again by Elle Fanning) has taken over the ruling of the magical creatures that inhabit the moors while, due to bad word of mouth, her godmother Maleficent (Jolie) has removed herself and hides in a cliff watching from afar.
When Aurora receives a wedding proposal from her true love from a neighboring kingdom Prince Phillip (played in this film by Harris Dickinson), Aurora’s hope is that this will be a peaceful, happy, and safe union for all under her stewardship. However, Phillip’s mother Queen Ingrith (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) has something else more selfish and sinister in mind.
When Maleficent tries to intervene, she is, yet again, misunderstood, gravely injured (spoiler alert), and then saved by a dark horned fey named Conall (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor). Conall is the leader of a group of banished dark fey (horned and winged fairies like Maleficent) who live in large caves underground to protect themselves from humans while still holding on to the hope for a world where humans and fairies can peacefully co-exist.
What will Maleficent do? Will she stay underground with her new peeps? Will she try to rescue her goddaughter from her crazy soon-to-be mother-in-law? Will she continue just to sit there and look tormented yet pretty (like she does for 90% of the picture)? Is she truly the “mistress of evil”? So many questions…
Actually, this was one of the strangest films I’ve seen all year. While I was just expecting a boring rehash of the 2014 original film, instead what director Joachim Rønning and his team have created is an incredibly stylish and ambitious production that is far superior to its original (which isn’t saying much) and that has a tremendous amount of artistry, beauty, and panache.
The film is really wonderful to look at. The environments created by the multitude of CGI artists who worked on them truly feel like a unique fantasy world, a place that we’ve never seen and one that we definitely want to spend time in and explore. The myriad of magical creatures who live on the moor are creative and fun rather than annoying (although the ridiculous three fairies from the original film unfortunately make it in to the sequel, but with much reduced screen time, mercifully). The costume designs and makeup are also stunning and while they might be enhanced with some CGI, everyone looks terrific which really adds again to the imaginative and lovely aesthetics of the film’s production.
While the film is named after her character, Maleficent, strangely, doesn’t really have much to say in the film which is really problematic for the filmgoer. Her main job is just to look, well, brooding and, again, misunderstood. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it actually was unfortunate that Maleficent didn’t have more to say because we never really understand her point of view or what she’s doing. And while her actions I guess speak louder than words, it still would have been nice to have some more exposition about what in the world was going on in that perpetually misunderstood mind of hers.
The film gets off to a strong and interesting (if not a bit wacky) start, but sadly, by the time the conflict all really comes to a head in the third act, this fantasy flick seems more like a Game of Thrones ripoff than anything else. While it’s pretty clear to know who to root for, the battle royale is still just a puzzling, muddled mess. Sadly, everything gets derailed and we’re left just to think of how beautiful the production design was and to wonder just who was this film made for in the first place.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association for “intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and brief scary images.”
My score: 2.5 out of 5 stars
As an added bonus, here are some cool posters for the film from the talented artists at Poster Posse.
All images ©️ Disney