Reviewed by Priyanka Minj
Director: Joachim Rønning
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer, Harris Dickinson
Story: When Princess Aurora accepts the marriage proposal of Prince Phillip, she unknowingly opens the door for the dark forces that want to destroy the moors and its mystical inhabitants.
Review: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a sequel to the 2014 dark fantasy movie Maleficent. The original film was a reimagining of the fairytale of Sleeping Beauty and Disney’s own animated film Sleeping Beauty (1959). The film told the classic tale from the viewpoint of a fairy who puts a curse on a child to sleep forever only to be awakened by true love. While the first Maleficent movie, even though it brokered with our patience, made sense, but the second movie is more about spectacle than storytelling. The first movie showed us that ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’. But she was not just scorned, her wings were stolen from her too. Probably that was the reason why Maleficent did what she did, and that she might not be evil after all — despite putting a curse on the baby, she learned to love and care for her.
The second story in the hands of Joachim Ronning expands on the previous premise. From the beginning, it’s made very clear that this is not a fairytale. It seems Disney along with us has finally grown out of its own delusion of beautiful sunsets and happily ever afters; that this might be a world where “love does not end well”, a warning from Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) to Aurora (Elle Fanning).
Aurora is now the queen of the moors. Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) of Ulstead confesses his true love and proposes marriage to Aurora, who happily accepts his proposal. This happy news does not go down well with Maleficent. She already feels cornered not only because she does not want to lose Aurora but also because her past experience has made her lose her faith in love, and she believes that Aurora is making a huge mistake.
Despite her misgivings, she agrees to meet Aurora’s future in-laws King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). Reluctantly, she visits the castle of Ulstead, but it turns out to be a disaster from the get-go. Maleficent finally meets her worthy opponent in Queen Ingrith, who indirectly humiliates her and tells her that she will keep Aurora as she believes that it is against Maleficent’s nature to be a mother. This forces her to unleash her wrath and from there, things spiral downwards and drowns only to be saved by an unexpected ally who takes her back to her roots.
The story delves deeper into the fantasy world. It is engaging, but it does not justify the return of all the characters. Even though it was considered to be a much-awaited sequel, it just delivers your usual fare of good versus evil and the triumph of good over evil. This time, it is also less joyful, which seems to be missing altogether, and it is all about war. Pfeiffer’s character Ingrith says that human beings are far more complicated and unpredictable than anything else, and Disney seems to have made everything complicated without any reason. There is conflict but no cause for it. Just a vague reason of humans’ greed for power. Maybe it is the reflection of our times and everything that has happened before ours. You don’t need a specific reason to destroy someone’s life and snatch everything away from them — greed sums it up.
Even Elle Fanning’s Aurora has not much to do except be a helpless bystander. She manages to steal a few scenes here and there, but overall she fails to make her presence felt. As for Harris Dickinson’s Prince Phillip, he is just a good-looking Ken with a wooden expression and always the last one to figure out what is happening in the castle. Together, Phillip and Aurora are rendered blindingly fair (it hurt my 3D vision) and insipid like a lukewarm soup without salt!
The best part about the movie is its eye-popping visuals, classic build-up establishing heroes and the villains, a bounty of colorful and magical creatures and a CGI-laden climactic battle sequence. But, the crowning glory of the movie is Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent. Her horns are beautiful and almost a phallic symbol of potency. It’s a shame that Aurora asks her to cover her horns as she is uncomfortable with her non-binary body. Whatever screen time she gets, she holds it with aplomb, overshadowing everything and everyone. You cannot move your eyes away from her, such is the power of her screen presence. It is disappointing that such a majestic and magnetic character, for the most part, was made to be the spectator of the story.
Despite its flaws, the movie mostly works because of Jolie’s performance, visual effects and the tried and tested Disney formula. In the end, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil took a brilliant character and did justice to it for the most part, if not entirely. The two Maleficent movies have transformed the story of Sleeping Beauty and the character of Maleficent forever and largely for the better, with a message that “It doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters who you love.”
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