Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil Director: Joachim Rønning
Writer: Linda Woolverton, Noah Harpster, Micah Fitzerman-Blue
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein, Michelle Pfeiffer
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
Rated PG | Minutes: 118
Release Date: October 18, 2019
You never know what to expect from Disney’s live-action adaptations of their animated classics. At times, they can be just as wonderful as their animated counterparts. Other times, they are just hollow, lacking any sort of distinguishing features. But for Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil, starring Angelina Jolie, it is the first sequel of its kind for the studio. This means, there are new stories to see and hear, new worlds to explore, new characters to meet, and more reasons to love the antihero fairy whose cold heart was warmed by Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning).
Sure, the first film was merely a CGI-saturated feature that could not match Jolie’s performance, but with the sequel has a much better cast, a fantastic story, and more epic action sequences. Check out the full review below.
Set a few years after the first film, Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil centers on the warm-hearted fairy with a cold demeanor who learns that her surrogate daughter, Aurora, queen of the moors, is about to marry Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson). While she is opposed to the engagement, Maleficent reluctantly goes along with the marriage. To celebrate the occasion, she and Aurora have a royal dinner with Philip’s parents, King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). While King John genuinely approves of the marriage and believes that it will finally bring peace between the two species, Queen Ingrith doesn’t share the same sentiment.
Unbeknownst to King John, Queen Ingrith has been concocting a scheme that will frame Maleficent as an evil sorceress who has not changed her ways and will use the wedding as a diversion to lure all of moor kind out into the open and kill them all.
Meanwhile, Maleficent learns that she isn’t the only one of her kind to exist. Her fellow fairies recall how they were exiled to the caverns beneath the ocean, and tell their plans of a revolution that will bring the fairies out from hiding, where they can live free and thrive on the surface world. And they believe that Maleficent could be the key that could make that happen.
Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil brings in an exciting expansion of the character’s mythos as it takes a deeper look at all of her deliciously twisted motherly love and wicked sense of humor, while also exploring more of the world that exists outside of the enchanted forest and the neighboring kingdom. It doesn’t have to bother with throwing in obvious and obligatory nods from the animated original, although it still maintains the spirit of its animated counterpart, as well as the bones of the first live-action film.
Much of that comes from Jolie, who continues to play the fairy who you love to hate and hate to love without missing a beat. She is still an alluring character you can’t quite get a read on because her wicked demeanor is balanced out with her love towards her surrogate daughter, Aurora. Her mere presence demands respect. And though lesser fauna and flora moors bow, Aurora is the only one who has the courage to stand up to her. This is one thing that Maleficent loves about Aurora. But she may care a little bit too deeply. So much so that when she learns that Aurora is to be wed to Prince Philip, she does not give any blessing. In fact, Maleficent just won’t allow it.
Maleficent still holds a grudge towards the very concept of love because of what happened in the first film. “Love doesn’t always end well, beasty,” Maleficent tells Aurora. However, despite those feelings, Aurora is able to reach to Maleficent’s human side by expressing her happiness from being engaged to her true love, and that she can prove that Maleficent is wrong. So Maleficent gives her blessing, reluctantly, and agrees to go across the river to meet Prince Philip’s parents. Though Maleficent’s mere presence causes somewhat of a frenzied panic amongst the townsfolk and even the kingdom’s military. However, King Henry and Prince Philip welcome Maleficent with open arms and hopes that the wedding can bring everlasting peace between the humans and moors, but Queen Ingrith, for her own reasons, isn’t so keen on the idea of letting the dark fairy into the kingdom.
Pfeiffer makes for a great foil and a great villain. Ingrith is just as sharp at throwing cold stares and barbs ever so subtly as the dark fairy who sits across the dinner table. At times, she can even provoke her into doing something hastily. But the queen is even better at hiding her true motivations, which are driven by something more personal. That sort of blind hatred towards the moors only underscores how ignorant she is towards the innocent species. She controls the narrative by manipulating the situation to her favor and spreading ignorance and fear across the kingdom. This is also a reflection of what society is going through today, with hostile leaders creating divisiveness between family and friends.
The very idea of family being pulled apart by differences and how those differences make you stronger are the focal themes of this film. Aurora tries to present Maleficent as a fairy who can be human, by doing things like covering her horns, while a frightened Diaval (Sam Riley) tries to coach her creator to doing and saying things a human. It’s apparent that even though Maleficent is willing to go to such lengths to make her daughter happy, she does it through grinding her teeth and an insincere smile. Though that is no fault of her own as she is forced to endure all of Ingrith’s provocations.
And then there are the other fairies who want to carry out their own sense of justice after they have been driven into exile by the humans. Borra (Ed Skrein) is the most wrathful of the fairies and is willing to go to war against humans without knowing what the humans possess. An unrecognizable Skrein gets lost in the role. He’s having fun with the idea of playing this vengeful fairy, and it shows as he campaigns for war. However, Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is much more of a pacifist and believes that peace can be achieved in less violent ways. And he does that by having Maleficent embrace her relationship with Aurora. Though, there isn’t much else to it than that.
All the deception, lies, underhanded scheming, magical spells, non-human beings, and the potential war make it feel as though Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil was Disney’s take on Game Of Thrones. Though it may be a little bit frantic in terms of pacing as the film fills up its runtime with solving the side mystery, it all leads up to an epic scale battle that sees fairies, large streets, and other forms of flora and fauna fighting the humans. A large flock of fairies scatters across the sky and they are all ready to engage in battle, while the humans are firing arrows with explode powder that creates red clouds. All the while a large black bear tears down a squad of knights with ease. The transformation itself is exciting to watch.
With better foils, some timely themes, and Jolie being ever so charming playing the ever so wicked but lovable dark fairy, Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil is much more fun and enjoyable. Pfeiffer’s Queen Ingrith may be an unlikable character, but she plays it off so well like any good scheming queen. And it all lives up to its promise to deliver one of the best epic action sequences that these Disney live-action adaptations of animated classics have to offer. All in all, it is a sequel that is truly better than the first, even though the first set the bar low.