A Magnificent 'Maleficent': A Review Of 'Mistress Of Evil'
With angular cheekbones that you could land aircraft on, Angelina Jolie proves this was a role tailor-made for her. It’s a dark fantasy/action film that soars, and results in a case of “the stronger sequel”
Thanks to the confrontation scenes between Maleficent and Queen Ingrith, and the action/battle scenes that dominate the last quarter of this second installment, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil proves that a sequel can in fact be more entertaining than the first film. There’s a palpable energy in the world-building, the special effects, and the costume that makes this the much stronger installment, and cements Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of Maleficent as one of the roles we’ll now feel she was born for.
Aurora (Elle Fanning), Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), and Diaval (Sam RIley) | Disney
The events of Mistress of Evil take place five years after the first film; and it shows how so many rich off-tangent narrative strands can be made from one source material—in this case, the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. No longer saddled with presenting an origin tale, or playing the beats of the Sleeping Beauty fable, Mistress of Evil plays on the internal strife between humans on one hand, and fairies and mythical creatures on the other hand.
A reconciliation between the two worlds is put as a possibility when Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) proposes marriage to moorland Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning). While Aurora’s stepmother Maleficent is visibly unimpressed by the prospect, King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) seem more enthusiastic about the impending union ...or so it seems. With each major character having his or her own agenda, it isn’t long before we’re in the thick of things, and it isn’t giving much away to say the scenes where you have both Maleficent and Queen Ingrith are what keep the narrative humming.
Michelle Pfeiffer as Queen Ingrith | Disney
Besides Queen Ingrith as the most interesting of the new characters introduced, it’s the world-building via the introduction of a tribe of winged creatures similar to Maleficent that carries weight. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Conall and Ed Skrein as the villainous Borra are the members of these avian creatures who make the strongest impression. Returning cast members such as Thistetwit (Juno Temple), Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), and Flittle (Lesley Manville) were the charmers of the first film, but aren’t given all that much to do here and don’t elicit the same reaction they did back in the first Maleficent.
Joachim Rønning, who hails from Norway, directs. He gave us Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Don’t Tell Tales, so you know he can create battle scenes, and execute them on an epic scale. Here, they reminded me of Avatar meets War of the Worlds; and these scenes are one of the reasons the film rises above the fairy tale elements which dominate the proceedings.
What ultimately had me scratching my head was the producer’s inner conflict of trying to make this a darker, more visceral fantasy film, while also maintaining the trademark Disney DNA of creating family entertainment. It’s the proverbial case of wanting the best of two very distinct worlds, and ending up in the middle ground. The fact that there are badass women at the forefront of the action should prove popular to audiences—but it’s still a popcorn movie. We can be grateful that it actually works far better than the first film, and that’s a Hollywood rarity.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil will be out in theaters nationwide on October 18.