Review: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
Maleficent and her goddaughter Aurora begin to question the complex family ties that bind them as they are pulled in different directions by impending nuptials, unexpected allies, and dark new forces at play. (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, IMDB)
I watched Maleficent: Mistress of Evil yesterday and I really enjoyed it. Disclaimer: I love Angelina Jolie. LOVE. I think she is a most inspiring human being. However, I don't always enjoy her movies. She's a great actress. I just find some of her films not as engaging. Maleficent (both 1 & 2) are great movies to watch with friends or alone.
There will be SPOILERS in this review.
I liked the first Maleficent. Her transformation from innocent fae to the dark witch-fae who curses a baby was deeply affecting, by way of a scene reminiscent of rape. She delivered the pathos of a character who could have been too camp, too one-sided, and made her deeply relatable. I had some minor quibbles about the lack of character development for Diaval, her raven/sidekick/co-parent, and the set pieces were not as awe-inspiring as they could have been. The themes of love, betrayal and growth were delivered with a heavy hand, but it worked well overall as a retelling of a fairy tale.
As for the sequel, I think it's delivered with a lighter touch than the first one (for all it's about an attempt at genocide), and it faltered in the second act. Sam Riley's Diaval the raven gets more lines, and we see a lot more of his personality as well. His relationship with Maleficent is much like that of an old married couple's, and while I hated that Diaval was not with Maleficent for the second act of the movie, the few exchanges they did have establishes just how much she relies on him. As for the other male characters, while I like Prince Philip, I find him dull and predictable. Suitable for a
Elle Fanning's Aurora is sweet, brave and good without being cloying or coming across naive; the choice to have her confront the queen, unarmed, and for her to be the one to repeatedly remind Maleficent of her humanity makes her the heart of the story.
As the antagonist, Michelle Pfeiffer is fantastic in her portrayal of Queen Ingrith, who is always armored in elaborate white and silver dresses, her hands gloved. Her polite demeanor and smiles mask a heart devoid of empathy for those unlike her. Pfeiffer walks the thin line between Again the metaphor is rather heavy-handed, but this is a Disney movie for children, after all.
Our protagonist is still the hero-turned-villain-turned-unlikely-hero, Maleficent. She is still not a social butterfly, and is still feared by the fae of the Moors which she protects. Aurora and Diaval are the only ones able to bring out her softer side. In the second act of the movie, once she's taken from her family to be with her kind, the dark fae, Maleficent barely says a word. Her kinsfolk have a lot to say, to sway her to wage war or to uphold peace, but I find there to be little to engage the audience, for us to empathize with them. What won me over was a little scene where a dark fae (a character named Udo, dressed all in white in vaguely Chinese wuxia-style clothing) plays with some dark fae fledglings, and I like to think that is when Maleficent decided where she stands.
The final act is action-packed, and it's great to see a battle scene set in daytime for once. I am so done with night battles. The confrontation where Maleficent faces Ingrith is wonderful, especially when Maleficent transforms into her true form. I did not like the ending, however; it was too trite and forgiveness came by too fast, but I suppose they needed the happily-ever-after.
Despite the ending and the saggy middle, I do think this is an above-average sequel, and Jolie's acting choices convey far beyond what the thin script provided. A special shout-out to costuming and design: the dark fae are not monolithic, with various cultures referenced in their outfits, and the leading ladies are costumed beautifully in ways that enhance their qualities and characteristics. Overall, a good way to spend an afternoon.