Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent returns to theaters in a much darker and violent sequel. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil can best be described as Disney’s Game of Thrones. A ruthless human queen engineers the genocide of her enemies. It’s the infamous “Red Wedding”, but with fairy tale characters. Gone are the heartwarming moments of innocence and wonder. Betrayal and brutality are the themes here. I found the bleak tone to be a refreshing surprise, despite an obvious plot. But parents may be caught off guard. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a scary endeavor for younger children.
Five years after Maleficent declared her Queen of the Moors, Aurora (Elle Fanning) accepts the marriage proposal of Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson). His father, King John of Ulsted (Robert Lindsay), is overjoyed. He sees the union as a chance to finally bring together humankind and magical creatures. Phillip’s mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), does not share that point of view. She despises the Moors and her weak husband. The marriage of her son to Aurora gives her a unique opportunity.
The royal family of Ulsted invites Aurora and Maleficent to dinner. The bitterness and distrust leads to a calamitous outcome. King John mysteriously falls into a spell induced slumber. Queen Ingrith blames Maleficent, who flies away; angry and betrayed. A deceived Aurora sides with the humans against her mother. Queen Ingrith declares the wedding will proceed regardless. With Maleficent sidelined, she invites all creatures of the Moors to the blessed event. It is her chance to gather every hated enemy in one place.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil builds to a war between races over land, rights, and power. There’s an underlying theme of human oppression and fear because of the different “others.” Maleficent learns that she is a Dark Fey, whose people has also been subjugated by man’s cruelty. There’s no subtlety to this delivery. The script by Linda Woolverton hammers in this message. The use of a wedding to unite kingdoms is an easy set-up for a climactic battle. The outcome is never in doubt, but far more disturbing than expected. A woman sitting beside me wept as the hapless fairies met their fates.
Michelle Pfeiffer gobbles up the screen with pure villainy. I’ll stick with the Game of Thrones analogies and liken her Queen Ingrith to Cersei of House Lannister. She is supremely diabolical without a shred of morality; perhaps the most vile character we’ve seen in Disney film lore. Michelle Pfeiffer towers over Angelina Jolie, who comes off as meek and subdued. Maleficent, even with all of her incredible powers, is outmatched by the ferocity of her human adversary. Angelina Jolie needed to add some timber to her performance.
Complaints about the visual effects are absurd. I saw Maleficent: Mistress of Evil in IMAX and was quite impressed. The Moors, Ulsted, and underground cave of the Feys all look amazing. The finale is incredible to see from a land, water, and air perspective. What movie were the naysayers watching? Ignore the haters because they are completely off base. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a superb visual effects film. You can quibble about the characters and predictable plot, but the technical aspects are a strength not a weakness.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is not a feel-good sequel with a heartwarming fairy tale romance. It radically amps up the darkness. Prepare the youngsters for a grittier experience. It appealed to me, but I’m certainly not the target audience. Michelle Pfeiffer is deliciously vicious. She could melt icebergs with her wicked countenance. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a production of Roth Films and Walt Disney Pictures.
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