It’s always intriguing to examine Disney fairytales through the perspective of the villains. Five years ago with her sharp cheekbones and spectacular horns, we fell in love with Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent. Now years later with this Maleficent: Mistress of Evil movie review–-we expected the “good girl” to go bad again. Unfortunately, instead of the diabolical dark fey that we grew to love–the follow up to Maleficent showcases the powerful fairy in a much more reserved light.
Picking up years after the first film–we find Aurora (Elle Fanning) living as the Queen of the Moors. There’s been peace for many years and with an impending marriage between Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) and Aurora, there is hope that the Moors and the prince’s kingdom might be formally united in peace once and for all. However, as we all know–we cannot simply skip to the “happily ever after.”
While Jolie’s Maleficent still gets rilled up when she feels threatened or when the connection that she and Aurora share is hanging precariously in the balance–she’s not actually the villain in this mistitled film. Instead, that honor goes to Prince Philip’s diabolical mother– Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). Rather than centering the film on Maleficent and all of the ways she’s misunderstood–or giving her a better Achilles’ heel than iron– the villainous crown in this flick goes to Pfeiffer’s Queen Ingrith.
Icy, cunning and donning a jewel-covered wardrobe–the Scarface legend is iconic in the role. To put it frankly, her bloodlust and thirst for power are the most interesting things about Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. With Maleficent shoved to the side (literally) and Aurora torn between the woman who raised her and the family she’s set to marry into–Queen Ingrith is free to wreak havoc on this magical world.
Unfortunately–watching the queen plot and plan are the most enjoyable aspects of the film. Though it’s beautifully shot–like something right of a storybook– there’s nothing truly enticing or mystifying about Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. When we learn a bit more about the powerful dark fey’s origin story and meet fellow fey, Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor), it seemed for a moment that the story might open up–that we might truly unpack some of Maleficent’s motivations.
Sadly, this never happens. Because the film gets swept away in the massive battle at the climax and all of the weaponry that’s crafted to be used against Maleficent and her kind–the core of this Sleeping Beauty story is quite muddled. There is something to be said about decentering Aurora and Prince Philip’s love story and allowing the women to drive the narrative themselves–but the script simply does not live up to expectations.
Though director Joachim Rønning does what he can with the lavish set and stunning costuming–that’s about as substantive as the entire film is. At a hefty 120 minutes for a family film–a good chunk of time was squandered on the massive third act battle when it should have been spent on character development or at least allowing Jolie to spread and flex her wings the way that she deserves.
Simply put, many clever twists could have been placed on the traditional Sleeping Beauty plot to center its villain. Since they weren’t utilized, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a sequel that we could have all done without.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil debuts in theaters Oct. 18, 2019.