Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is the sequel that nobody asked for. Not that the first Maleficent film was bad, but it felt final and conclusive, with a clever spin “Wicked” style, telling an alternate story of Sleeping Beauty from the dark fae’s point of view. So, you can forgive me in assuming that there wouldn’t be enough content for a sequel and can understand my surprise for Mistress of Evil existing. I suppose though, I wasn’t exactly wrong…
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil brings the return of Angelina Jolie who is wonderful once again as the regal, winged, dark and intimidating faerie. She is also the godmother to Aurora played by Elle Fanning who (for some unknown reason) has more screen time than Jolie herself, despite the title of the film and all. Aurora, no longer eternally napping, is somehow ‘Queen of the Moors’, the magical land in which all enchanted creatures reside. She doesn’t really do much ruling though, nor is she magical herself, and is shown mostly smiling and sitting pretty, adorned with flowers and frolicking around the forest (yawn). Although, I suppose Aurora was never my favourite Disney princess.
Mistress of Evil focuses on the engagement and pending nuptials between Aurora and her Prince Phillip now played by Harris Dickinson (previous Prince Phillip from the first film, Brenton Thwaites had prior filming commitments – lucky him). Much to the protest and reluctance of Maleficent, the engagement goes ahead.
Putting disagreements aside, Maleficent agrees to meet and have dinner with Prince Phillip’s parents, out of her love and compassion for Aurora. Big mistake. Huge. Meeting the in-laws, whether it be fantasy or not, is always going to be a painful process, and this dinner was no exception. In the classic ‘pitting women against each other’ scenario, Michelle Pfeiffer (who these days is type-cast to play the bad guy) plays Queen Ingrith, Phillip’s mother who passive aggressively verbally butts heads with Maleficent at the dinner table, while the men awkwardly seek refuge in wine.
When Maleficent is accused of cursing the king, Aurora sides with Phillip’s family (naturally), leaving Maleficent betrayed, abandoned and alone. This is, until a miracle is spun, and she meets fae who are just like her. First of all, where the hell were these characters in the first film? Second of all, I love Chiwetel Ejiofor and while I was delighted to see him on-screen as Conall, I was extremely disappointed by how underutalised he was in the film. I would also like to add that while I was happy to see the return of Sam Riley as Diaval, he too was underutalised.
Hierarchy wise, it did confuse me as to why Queen Ingrith was in power over Prince Phillip, given that normally in royalty, the power would go to the first male heir and not the wife of the king. Pfieffer, although brilliant in her own right as the scary in-law and wicked queen, gave a performance in an all too familiar scenario, channeling her inner Cerise Lannister from Game of Thrones. With mass genocide on the agenda by the use of red magic dust, I wondered throughout the film how appropriate it actually was for children to watch.
The worst character of the film would have to be Harris Dickinson’s Prince Phillip. Although one of the best princes in the Disney animated classics, this live-action version pales in comparison, as Prince Phillip is apathetic, useless and has no clue of what is going on around him until everything is spelled out for him, which I find extremely hard to believe. And had he not been pulled aside and advised what was going on, I am convinced he’d still be sitting at that dinner table drinking wine.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is visually stunning, no question. However, while the film does have very talented actors at its disposal, the writing lets everyone down. I felt no emotional connection for any of the characters, nor did I care for their wellbeing. I didn’t dislike this film, but I didn’t like it much either. It’s obvious that the synopsis was a struggle to put together to begin with, hence my initial thought that the film would have a lack of content. And while I am grateful that Disney have tried to continue with their original spin on a classic tale rather than recreate the classic animation, Maleficent and her disloyal goddaughter really need to be left alone now and put to sleep indefinitely.