[#2020oscardeathrace] Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)

Director: Joachim Rønning

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sam Riley, Ed Skrein, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Leslie Manville, Michelle Pfeiffer

Screenplay: Linda Woolverton, Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster

119 mins. Rated PG for intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and brief scary images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling [PENDING]

 

I was genuinely interested in Maleficent when it came out back in 2014. I liked the idea that Disney was taking a different route with their live-action adaptations by focusing on the villain. It’s an overall rough move, but I admired the attempt. Unfortunately, that was all for naught, as Disney merely decided to make Maleficent (Angelina Jolie, Girl, Interrupted, Kung Fu Panda 3) into the hero and make the King an evil bad guy. It was a disappointing move that essentially turned Maleficent into a film that didn’t work. Now, some years later, Disney is going back into the world of Maleficent with a sequel, and to be fair, the trailers seemed quite intriguing. But would Mistress of Evil be a course-correction, turning Maleficent into the villain we all know her to be, or is this another misfire?

Five years have passed since the death of the evil King Stefan, Maleficent has been protecting the Moors with Aurora (Elle Fanning, Super 8, A Rainy Day in New York) serving as Queen. When Prince Phillip from Ulstead proposes marriage to Aurora, Maleficent is forced to play nice when meeting Phillip’s parents, King John and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer, Hairspray, Avengers: Endgame). That plan goes south when Ingrith creates toxicity at their first dinner together, manipulating the situation to make Maleficent look like the evil creature that the people of Ulstead believe her to be. She flees but is attacked by Ingrith’s soldiers and is injured, rescued at the last second by a winged creature who looks similar to her. Now, with Maleficent in hiding and Ingrith twisting the narrative, it would appear that there’s no stopping an all-out war between the humans and the magical creatures, and it’s up to Maleficent to stop it.

Apart from the obvious question of “Who Was Asking for Maleficent 2?” comes the realization that, to a lesser extent, this follow-up repeats the same mistakes as the original. Again, we have a marketing campaign selling us on Maleficent, the Mistress of Evil, one of the greatest villains in history, and the movie is Maleficent Lite, the “Diet Coke of Evil” as Mike Myers once put it. Yet again, we have an opportunity to see a hero turn to darkness, and yet again, the decision is made to keep her heroic. This film rides the line a little better than before, but it still keeps Maleficent heroic.

The performances are all just fine, specifically Jolie, Fanning, and Pfeiffer, but I feel like the writing for Queen Ingrith intrudes on Pfeiffer’s performance, making her a little mustache-twirly at times. I don’t get her motivation as a villain considering how the first film framed Maleficent, and I need more from her character to showcase why she has it out for Maleficent.

Outside of all that, some of the action is fun even though this movie is so CGI-heavy that it’s tough to take any of it seriously. The CGI is just a little too glossy. It’s enjoyable enough, and what can I say, it’s a better movie than its predecessor, but not by much.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a poor title for this film considering Disney isn’t actually willing to make a story about the real villain and chooses to sugarcoat this story making the villain into the hero…yet again. It’s disappointing because this sequel just feels like broken promises stretched into two hours. I think there are people that will enjoy it, and I believe it is a wholly better film than the first one, but I don’t think we need this franchise to continue.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Robert Stromberg’s Maleficent, click here.

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