I love fairy tales. While only an amateur student of folklore, I do love a great retelling or a new spin on an old classic. The first film, Maleficent was unique and interesting. Angelie Jolie was a great pick for the main role. With the sequel, I was curious as to what new ideas they would incorporate and how they would change it from the first movie. I found the sequel visually stunning with diverse world-building, themes that resonate with current events, and a lovely story that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Directed by Joachim Rønning, and written by Linda Woolverton, Micah Fitzerman-Blue, and Noah Harpster, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is the sequel to the 2014 film Maleficent, with Angelina Jolie returning to portray the title role. The story begins with Aurora (Elle Fanning) awake and ruling over a diversity of Fae in the Moors. Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) proposes but Maleficent is less than pleased that her god-daughter will be spending more time with humans. But at the urging of Diaval (Sam Riley), Maleficent chooses to support Aurora, going to a dinner given by Phillip’s father, King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). The dinner quickly runs to chaos as Queen Ingrith lays the seeds of doubt in Aurora and Maleficent’s temper explodes. Dark forces pull mother and daughter apart, embroiling the Fae and humans in a war that may destroy all of the Fae.
While not perfect, there are some elements I truly loved. The first thing that caught my attention was the CGI and special effects. The magic that explodes from Maleficent is visually stunning and the weapons the humans invent are used in dynamic action in the final battle. The designs are incredible, from the light Fae in all their brilliant color to the Dark Fae in all their winged glory. The Dark Fae are amazingly diverse, thoughtfully designed to reflect types from around the world and personalities as rich. The castle for the kingdom of Ulstead is architecturally beautiful as are the Moors of the Fae. Visually, this film is just gorgeous with action scenes that immerse the viewer in the fighting and keep you engaged in the story.
The theme of the film is also intriguing. The message sent is to embrace peace, not war and love, not hate. Ingrith’s hatred of the Fae leads her to violent actions, along with the soldiers she’s recruited, including Gerda (Jenn Murray). Even among the Dark Fae, there are those counseling war, like Borra (Ed Skrein). But Aurora and Phillip only want to unite their kingdoms and create peace between the human and the fae. Even amongst the Dark Fae, their leader, Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor) also recognizes the need for peace. It is Maleficent who is uncertain, her anger making her wish to harm the humans but her love for Aurora making her hesitate. It is these themes and Maleficent’s journey that make the story interesting.
Angelie Jolie seems created for this part, her ability to emote anger and pain part of what makes the character work. Elle Fanning is sweet and fierce as Aurora. Harris Dickinson as Phillip comes into his role in the last half as he confronts his mother’s role in the destruction and war with the fae. Chiwetel Ejiofor is incredible as Conall and I absolutely feel that Sam Riley stole the film as Diaval. Jenn Murray is diabolic as Ingrith’s henchwoman Gerda. Warwick Davis is intriguing as Lickspittle, the mad scientist discovering weapons for Queen Ingrith. Michelle Pfeiffer did well with the role she was given as the antagonist of the film.
If that last bit sounds less than enthusiastic, it’s because one of the main issues is the lack of dimension with Queen Ingrith. Her role is flat and has little depth, beyond her hatred for the Fae. And with so much going on in the movie, with Maleficent communing with the Dark Fae, there isn’t much development of any of the characters. While Maleficent, Aurora, and Phillip have enough backstory to help them be solid characters, the rest of the cast doesn’t have that same luxury. I love the development and design of the Fae but I would have liked more depth with their world and personalities.
The other issue is that the plot, because it is a fairy tale, is predictable. It is obvious who the villain of the movie will be and ultimately, given that this movie is a sequel, we know the basics of how this story will develop. Even so, it still manages to be lovely and romantic, perfectly in keeping with the Disney style.
If you liked the first movie and Disney films, I think you will enjoy this one for the themes of love and peace. While some of those ideas are presented with little subtlety, they are still beautiful thoughts that are really needed with some of the chaos of today’s society. Angelie Jolie and Elle Fanning are delightful as is Sam Riley. The action is immersive and the story engaging. The graphics are beautiful and incredibly well designed. It is so beautiful that, even with some flaws, I still found the film enjoyable.
Rating: 4 Fae out of 5.
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