As with the release of any sequel, we often have to ask ourselves if it was really needed. Son of the Mask, S. Darko, Grease 2, The Hobbit and every Transformers sequel comes to mind, and with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil 2, we found ourselves asking that question quite a number of times throughout the film.
2014’s Maleficent was a great character study on the incredibly stylish but not necessarily evil Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), and gave audiences a better glimpse into her backstory and motivations. It showed us that Maleficent is more than the evil fairy that cursed Aurora (Elle Fanning) when she was just a baby, to eternal sleep for not being invited to her first birthday. It showed us exactly why Aurora of all babies was targeted, and how the witch got so jaded against humankind.
The first film was a great retcon to a fairy tale and it ended with a nice wrapped bow – Maleficent and Aurora finally made up, with the latter crowned as Queen of the Moors who acknowledged Maleficent as her Godmother. Oh, and the cause of most of Maleficent’s grief, the late King Stefan, was truly dead.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil picks up a few years after the events of the first movie, with Aurora as an experienced Queen of the Moors who is shown listening to complaints of the magical folks living in the Moors. And that’s about all the queenly duties we see Aurora do for the whole movie.
We are then quickly introduced to Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) who looks like any cookie-cutter prince, with his only defining qualities being how much he loves Aurora. Oh, and he has a vision to unite his kingdom of Ulsted with Aurora’s. Throughout the movie, there was little done to build the relationship of Aurora and Philip beyond them changing their statuses from ‘dating’ to ‘engaged’ within the first 10 minutes of the movie. The rest of the movie hardly has them interact beyond a few select scenes, which do not help build the romance in the film.
In support of Philip and Aurora’s engagement, King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) of Ulsted propose a celebration dinner, with Aurora and Maleficent as honoured guests. From the very start, we are shown how hostile Queen Ingrith is against anyone that is not human, and naturally, this includes Maleficent, and her actions inevitably enrage Maleficent.
A fight breaks out, and the King mysteriously falls into a coma in the midst of the fight, and when she sees the goddaughter she raised siding with the humans, Maleficent flies away enraged and betrayed.
From there, the movie turns into a typical action movie which pits man against nature, good versus bad. By the end of the movie, we have a full-blown CGI fight, with the castle of Ulsted reduced to rubble. It is frankly all rather predictable and there is nothing wrong with that. But we would have appreciated more well-rounded characters.
For most of the movie, it is Queen Ingrith who is more like the titular ‘Mistress of Evil’, maniacally scheming behind the scenes to destroy all magical creatures and belittling Aurora who grew up in the Moors. The movie tries to give her a motivation for all her hatred towards the magical folks in the Moors, but who knows if that is a lie or not, since she was already shown to be lying to Aurora at the start of the movie. Pfeiffer does try her best as the evil Queen Ingrith but as the movie plods along, we find ourself unable to sympathise, nor dislike the character in any major way.
Is she doing all this for greed? Revenge? Pure irrational hatred? We frankly do not know. The resolution towards her character also felt like a very safe out for Queen Ingrith, who by the end of the movie has killed quite a number of magical folks, as well as dark fae.
Oh yes, mid-way through the movie, we are introduced to a whole clan of dark faes who have chosen to hide on an island far away from humans. We can’t help wondering where these faes were in the previous movie. There was nothing done to tease their presence and after living for years safely on their island, they only decided to fight back against the humans right now? And all because they now have Maleficent with her powers against an army of humans wielding iron – a material that is deadly to faes.
Granted, living for years in a dark cave can make one eager to fly in the vast expanse of the sky again, but formulating a battle plan would also have been useful, instead of recklessly charging into battle and relying on pure adrenaline to carry them through the battle.
Angelina Jolie shines once again in Mistress of Evil, as the titular Mistress of Evil and Protector of the Moors. Her character is the only one who is able to get a few decent jokes out near the start and end of the film, when she is with Aurora or Diaval (Sam Riley), her raven-human familiar. Sadly, for a movie called Maleficent, there are a lot fewer scenes with her than her villainous counterpart, Queen Ingrith, which is a huge pity.
After all, how can a mere mortal queen win against a sorceress with horns on her head and razor-sharp cheekbones. Elle Fanning does try her best as Queen Aurora, but sadly, she still pales in comparison to Jolie, whose presence demands your attention from the first second she appears on screen.
Though it is great that Disney is stepping away from making live-action remakes of classic cartoons with this retelling of a classic tale, we can’t help but think that the story of Maleficent should have ended with the first movie. When your movie starts with the (admittedly witty) line of “Twice upon a time”, perhaps it is time to consider the need to make said movie. Despite having a great lead in Angelina Jolie, the rest of the cast and plot fail to hold their own and some even get sadly forgotten as the movie trudges along to the finishing line.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Angelina Jolie shines as Maleficent, the Mistress of Evil and Protector of the Moors. Sadly, everyone else did not.
Story - 6/10
Direction - 6/10
Characterisation - 5/10
Geek Satisfaction - 6/10