Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
Jacob Richardson | 22/10/2019
A largely disappointing sequel to what was one of Disney’s greatest successes in transitioning a cartoon to a live action adaptation.
Aurora (Elle Fanning) is now Queen of the Moors, and all the magical creatures within. When Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) asks to marry her, she accepts gladly - although that soon turns to nervousness when she realises that Phillip’s parents, King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) want to meet her mother Maleficent (Angelina Jolie). What starts as a calm dinner soon descends into war, as Maleficent is chased out of the castle and wounded. When she awakes, she finds herself in a hidden coven of her own people, led by the pacifist Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the war-mongering Borra (Ed Skrein). She must find a way to get her daughter back, and choose how best to align herself with this new understanding of her place in the world.
The biggest problem with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is that it is just way too crowded. Between the Queen, Prince Phillip’s redemption, the warring internal Dark Fae parties, and the cute creatures from the Moors, there is barely any time for director Joachim Ronning to focus on Aurora. Instead, we get snippets of Aurora, which coalesce into a picture of a largely inept and useless character. This also hampers the believability of character choices, in particular Aurora’s decision to cast out Maleficent from her life; a moment which rings grotesquely hollow.
The most egregious byproduct of this, however, is the lack of screen time for Maleficent herself. Jolie’s performance in the original was by far the standout, and in particular the scene where her wings are shorn (a somewhat hamfisted sexual assault analogy). Here she is given no room to move, and we get the smallest flashes of her original performance nestled amongst warring faction drama and young romance storylines that, frankly, we don’t care about.
Visually, this iteration is just as enrapturing as the original, and Ronning does a good job at (a) using the opportunities presented by three very different locales to play around with the set design and (b) creating a ‘magical’ feeling to each of the locations. The action, too, is oftentimes fairly inventive, with the combination of magical creatures, Dark Fae, and feudal humanity coming to blows in interesting and unexpected ways.
Unfortunately, all of those visual details don’t take away from the key flaw of this film - that Maleficent: Mistress of Evil needed more Maleficent.
Underwhelming, primarily because Maleficent never truly gets a chance to shine.