Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michael Pfiffer, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Director: Joachim Ronning
It takes a lot of talent to completely neuter one of Disney’s most intimidating and ferocious villains. In every medium available, whether this is film, print, or video games, the one thing that almost everyone can agree on is that Maleficent is not one to be messed with. While I appreciate a unique spin on a well-known and universally-feared character, it just doesn’t work in this situation. While the film looks beautiful and Jolie is strong in her leading role, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil seems to be another attempted Disney remake or sequel that ends up looking more like a dud than a hit.
The film takes place after the events of the 2014’s prequel Maleficent with the titular character (Jolie) taking care of her goddaughter Aurora (Fanning). When Aurora falls in love and agrees to marry Prince Phillip (Harris Dickenson), Maleficent and Aurora must work together to keep Maleficent in the good graces of Phillip’s kingdom as the two have been rivals for years. Naturally, this does not go according to plans as Phillip’s parents King John (Robert Lindsey) and Queen Ingrith (Pfiffer) don’t appreciate Maleficent’s behavior and declare war on her and her kingdom. The two things that work very well for this movie is both the way the film looks and the way it explores Maleficent’s background. From a technical perspective, it’s no surprise that a Disney movie and looks amazing and takes you right into the environment you’re watching. The animated aspects of the film look terrific and it never really feels as though this is a movie and really transports you into the movie’s environment. Outside of that, I did enjoy learning more about Maleficent’s background and gathering information about her species and how they have lived with the existence of humans. We’ve really only seen Maleficent as the only fairy in this universe so it’s interesting to see more of her kind in the movie and understand the struggles that they have gone through as a result of the prejudice from humans. Outside of those two things though, I was really unimpressed with the decision to morph Maleficent’s character into someone who rides the moral middle ground. When I think of Maleficent, I think of someone truly evil who I would go out of my way to avoid and understand that conflict against her is almost surely lethal. Whether this is her as a vicious dragon or a fairy that commands every scene she’s in, that character is absent from this movie. Seeing the best Disney villain reduced to awkward dinner conversations and trying to learn social skills doesn’t work in the context that the film is trying to frame it in. It’s a unique attempt and while I appreciate the fact that Disney tried to do something different here, but ultimately this is one character that should’ve been left alone. Following the similar format as the original movie, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a technical marvel but doesn’t do much past that surface.
Overall, as a piece of entertainment, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil will captivate audiences like most Disney movies even if you haven’t seen the previous movie. Where Disney has failed with some of their remakes recently is their narratives are weak and recycled from some of their more well-received movies. While it doesn’t seem to be impacting their bottom line, I hope moving forward Disney takes a long look at the level of quality they’ve been putting out and try harder to find scripts and ideas that will be more well-received and accepted by the general public.
Overall Score: 4.5/10