MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL review by Mark Walters – Angelina Jolie revisits the Disney villain

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL review by Mark Walters – Angelina Jolie revisits the Disney villain

The 2014 Angelina Jolie-headlined MALEFICENT movie helped kick off Disney’s live action adaptations of their animated classics, and was mostly well-received by critics and fans… something that can’t be said for Tim Burton’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND, despite its huge box office take, and the fact it already spawned a sequel. Now MALEFICENT is getting a sequel, bringing back Jolie along with Elle Fanning as Princess Aurora, Sam Riley as Diaval, Imelda Staunton as Knotgrass, Juno Temple as Thistlewit, and Lesley Manville as Flittle. MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL adds in Michelle Pfeiffer as Queen Ingrith, plus Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein, Robert Lindsay, and Harrison Dickinson. This sequel is directed by Joachim Rønning (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES), and chances are if you liked the first film, you’ll enjoy this one just as much.

Aurora (Fanning) is living happily in the forest with all of its creatures and fairies, still under the protection and watch of Maleficent (Jolie), who spends her knights protecting the woods from thieves who seek its hidden powers. Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) shows up to propose to Aurora, which of course would ostensibly take her away from her forest home. When word gets back to Maleficent, she is not pleased as she sees the reigning kingdom and its people as unlikable and a bad influence on her surrogate daughter. Philip brings Aurora to meet his parents, King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), and they seem open to the marriage, though Ingrith insists they must first dine with Aurora and Maleficent together. That dinner happens, and does not go well, leading to Maleficent being accused of putting a spell on the king, and flying away into the night sky… only she’s wounded by an iron bullet, crashing into the waters below. A mysterious winged figure rescues her from drowning and carries her away. With the king out of commission, Queen Ingrith begins plotting a way to rid the forest of all magical creatures, and uses the impending wedding as a way to execute her plans even faster. Elsewhere, Maleficent must heal in the hands of her rescuer Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who introduces her to a secret society of winged fairy creatures like her, all of which have gone into hiding from the dangerous humans. Many of this group wants to take revenge on the humans, and specifically the current kingdom, so as the wedding gets closer, so do the plans of these creatures, leading to an all-out war… only Ingrith has an unfair advantage waiting for them.

It’s funny, on the surface, these MALEFICENT movies don’t seem like they should work. Taking a character known as a villain in animated form, and making her a sort of sympathetic antihero, plus having a setting that’s filled with CGI mythical characters and weirdness… it almost seems like a recipe for disaster. Yet the first movie was quite enjoyable, and obviously did well enough for Disney to justify a sequel. And in many ways, the sequel feels like just more of the same, but that’s not to say it isn’t fun and entertaining. Jolie is once again pouring herself into the role 110%, and even taking a step back to let most of the other actors get the majority of the dialogue. There are lengthy scenes that she’s in where she barely says a word, but her presence is always impressive and strong. The addition of a secret fairy society that all look similar to her, and exploring the origins and feelings of those characters, all creates a smart and fascinating layer that we never got in the first movie. Jolie does look a bit older here though, not to say she isn’t still striking and hauntingly beautiful in her extensive makeup and wardrobe. Elle Fanning also looks just a bit older here, seeming more adult in her role than those who saw the first film might recall. Most of her performance is just her being emotional at things not going well, it’s definitely not one of the stronger female leads in recent memory, and I wish they would have given her more gravitas rather than just making her a typical damsel in distress.

Harris Dickinson is unfortunately a bit bland as Prince Philip, though I don’t remember thinking Brenton Thwaites was all that great playing that role in the first movie. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Ed Skrein do their best to make their characters interesting and powerful, but sadly still feel a little underwritten. Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, and Imelda Staunton are all three back as the miniature fairy godmothers watching over Aurora, but walk a fine line between adorable and annoying, never quite becoming as endearing as I’m sure the filmmakers would have hoped. The real star here is Michelle Pfeiffer as Queen Ingrith, really chewing the scenery and being progressively evil as her motives become more and more clear. Pfeiffer makes the most of this performance, and is so good at being bad that you easily forget Maleficent is anything but a hero herself. I would have liked a little more background that explained her motivations, but it’s still a great character. Also look for the great Warwick Davis as the Queen’s captive mystical chemist, a solid if brief performance.

The magical settings and extensive effects are just as impressive in this outing as the last, and it is fascinating seeing some of the new backdrops introduced here, possibly used for setting up a potential third outing. Maleficent’s time in the hidden fairy world definitely feels sparse, so if this does spawn another sequel I hope we’ll see more of that world. The biggest selling point of this film is the final battle, which is quite impressive and intense, and makes up for some of the movie’s slower and more tedious moments. There’s a major emotional moment that happens in the final act that had the potential to be something really powerful… but it’s resolved rather quickly without the story giving it time to breathe, and that’s kind of the problem with the film as a whole. The pacing moves so fast, the audience is never given much time to think heavily about what they’re seeing. Overall, this outing is still entertaining and well-executed, but it feels like there was a bigger story here that got cut down for time. And those cuts may have been necessary, as even at just under two hours, MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL still feels a little bloated at times. In the end, the easiest way to describe this sequel is to say if you liked the first one, chances are you’ll like this one too. Supposedly this is meant to be the second part of a trilogy, and as such it does expand the world a bit more to allow for a bigger overall story arc. Ultimately, Maleficent does seem like she’s on a journey toward a dark conclusion, so it will definitely be interesting to see if they make it there.

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL opens October 18, 2019

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.