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Review: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)

Directed by: Joachim Rønning

Premise: Following the events of the 2014 movie, Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) is set to marry Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) but his mother Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) schemes to draw Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and the other fanciful creatures into a war.

What Works: 2014’s Maleficent ended in a way that neatly tied up the story but the filmmakers of Mistress of Evil find a way to justify the sequel. The new episode starts with a premise that is remarkably similar to the original Shrek but after its first major action set piece the story goes in some different and unexpected directions that opens up the fantasy world. Mistress of Evil is at its best when the moviemakers let themselves get weird which they do in the production design. The visual effects are notably improved over the first film especially among the computer generated creatures which have more believable mass and texture. The costumes and makeups are also bolder and more stylized; the fairy creatures look organic rather than fashioned by an art director. The film’s greatest asset continues to be Angelia Jolie in the title role. Jolie balances menace and humanity and even gets opportunities to do comedy and her performances in the Maleficent films reveals a range that is far wider than Jolie’s filmography lets on. She’s matched by Michelle Pfeiffer as Queen Ingrith who is an effective adversary for Maleficent. Also notable is Elle Fanning as Aurora. Fanning has a non-Hollywood look that suits this film and the moviemakers balance the appeals of a classic Disney princess with contemporary initiatives to make the character more than that.
What Doesn’t: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil suffers from too much plot getting in the way of the story. The primary conflict, in which Queen Ingrith plots to wipe out the supernatural creatures of the woods, occurs alongside the love story between Aurora and Phillip and Maleficent’s encounter with others of her own kind who debate whether to attack the castle. It’s a lot and Mistress of Evil is overstuffed with more characters and storylines than it can service. As a result, there is very little drama. Queen Ingrith becomes a wedge between Maleficent and Aurora but it is never credible that their relationship will actually crumble. The moral conflicts of Mistress of Evil are never that complicated. Most everyone is either good or bad and the sequel continues one of the flaws of its predecessor. Despite its subtitle, at no point in the sequel does Maleficent ever really become a mistress of evil.

Bottom Line: Like its predecessor, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a compromised and messy film but it succeeds as mainstream fantasy entertainment. The story is overwrought and alternates between clichés and fresh takes but its lead actresses and imaginative fantasy world are enough to hold the viewer’s attention.

Episode: #772 (October 27, 2019)