Do you prefer Sleeping Beauty over Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Cinderella? Well, we have good news for you! After creating her story in a dark but heart-warming way in Maleficent, Disney has now brought her back to the big screen in the sequel Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. This movie from director Joachim Rønning (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Max Manus: Man of War) probably won’t be crowned as the film of 2019 but it’s still a very enjoyable watch.
A magical story about love and war
Just a quick recap to Maleficent. Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), a compassionate but heart-breaking fairy, finds Aurora, the newborn daughter of her ex-lover Stefan. Being vengeful against her and Stefan at first, Maleficent opens us towards Aurora and makes her the princess of the Moors. The goal is to unite the human kingdom and the magical one under one throne and that’s the start of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. After meeting and falling madly in love with each other, Aurora (Elle Fanning) is now engaged to her Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson). This is the perfect opportunity o unite two lovebirds but also two different kingdoms.
However, not everyone shares that same joy. Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), the mother of Philip, sees Aurora as a mysterious and dark intruder like Maleficent and Maleficent herself doesn’t want to give up her daughter to the humans. During the oh-so-important family dinner, it all goes off the rails. King John (Robert Lindsay) falls ill and Maleficent is being accused of poisoning him. When Aurora chooses the side of her in-laws and breaks her loyalty to Maleficent, Maleficent feels betrayed and is out for revenge. She’s not the only furious, vengeful and powerful woman. Queen Ingrith wants to honour the legacy of her husband and gather her troops to protect her kingdom, no matter the consequences. It becomes an immensely heated battle. Who will win this war and what will happen to the union of the kingdoms?
Characters are key
There was already the battle between “dark vs white”, “good versus evil”, “magical creature versus human” in the 2014 film and it’s that same conflict that Rønning is showing in this movie. Because of that and also because it’s a fairytale, the storyline seems very predictable. However, there’s still some elements that will make you fall in love with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.
The characters in this sequel are both hit and miss. The biggest hit is without a doubt casting Pfeiffer (Avengers: Endgame, Murder on the Orient Express) as Queen Ingrith. If you’re a fan of accents, you might wonder why they cast her but once you’ve seen her in the full battle outfit as the furious, head-strong and dark Queen, you know why. Pfeiffer puts on such a bombastic and powerful performance as the warrior but also a more emotional and friendly one as the caring and protective mother(-in-law). The scenes between her and Jolie (By the Sea, The Tourist) are the dark highlights of this movie. Of course, this is also because of Jolie’s stunning acting. Yes, sometimes her white and thin face can be a little bit over-the-top but once you get over that you see an energetic, impressive and badass Jolie. Luckily for us and this film, Sam Riley (Radioactive, Sometimes Always Never) is returning as Diaval, Maleficent’s loyal servant. Riley brings an immense rock ‘n roll vibe, tons of humour, wittiness and funny moments to the screen
This film is not only about the war but also about love and the marriage between Aurora and her Philip. In a relationship, it’s all about chemistry and passion but that’s not visible in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. This has absolutely nothing to do with Fanning (Teen Spirit, Mary Shelley) her wonderful, beautiful and strong performance, especially during the second part of the film when she gets the chance to shine bright. The reason why there’s no chemistry is the character of Prince Philip and the associated acting performance from Dickinson (County Lines, The Darkest Minds). It falls incredibly flat, it’s bland and doesn’t do this movie any justice. We would have loved to see Brenton Thwaites again as Philip.
Is there such a thing as too much CGI?
In a fantasy film like this, the CGI should be on point and again, we’re divided about this. The special effects are stunningly made, definitely the eye-catcher of this movie and fit the story incredibly well. It brings the fairytale element to life, especially when the ones taking place in the magical forest. At first, you will be swept off your feet by all the romance, the clever and sticky special effects. Sadly, the great VFX will fade when things are heated and becoming more darker. There’s just overuse of CGI. It becomes too much, a little bit of confusion and a mess. As a result of that, Jolie and Pfeifer can’t show their acting skills. Don’t get us started how cringy it feels to see Juno Temple (Lost Transmissions, The Pretenders), Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread, Hampstead) and Imelda Staunton (Downton Abbey, Finding Your Feet) as the three CGI fairies.
Not great but certainly not bad
Rønning is no stranger when it comes to making big-budget films as he sat in the directors’ chair during Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Just like that film, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil doesn’t reach its full potential. The reasons for that are the extravagant use of special effects and some half-written characters. However, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is still an entertaining, marvellous and eye-catching film because of some strong acting performances, humour, and vividness.
Rating: (3 / 5)