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Review: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

October 18, 2019

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Arriving in theatres a full five years after Disney’s successful live action fantasy Maleficent, which provided a loose retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale from the perspective of the original story’s villain, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is the epitome of a mildly enjoyable but also kind of needless sequel.

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and her human goddaughter Aurora (Elle Fanning) live peacefully on the moors surrounding the royal kingdom of Ulstead, watching over the fairies and other magical creatures that live there, whose environment is being threatened by human interference.

At the start of the film, Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) proposes to Aurora, and she agrees to marry him, despite the reservations of her godmother, viewing their union as a way to hopefully build a bridge between the magic and mortal worlds, who are locked in a sort of cold war.

Their engagement prompts Prince Phillip’s parents, King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), to invite Aurora and her godmother Maleficent over to the castle for dinner, leading to perhaps the juiciest and one of the most fun sequences in the whole film. The meal quickly becomes a disaster, with Ingrith’s intolerance of and outright contempt for Maleficent growing ever more apparent as the two bicker over dinner, and the scene likewise gives Jolie and Pfeiffer the perfect chance to go toe-to-toe. When King John ends up in a coma, Maleficent is blamed for it, setting the stage for an all-out war with the magical world that tests Aurora’s allegiance.

There are some intriguing ideas here about the conflicts between these two worlds, but the characters aren’t as well fleshed out as they could be, and the central conflict between Maleficent and Ingrith is written in fairly broad terms. The film ultimately settles for delivering a massive, CGI battle that feels derivative of countless other blockbusters. Another one of the biggest things working against Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is that the film feels too long at nearly two hours, and doesn’t have quite enough plot to really justify this running time. It actually all becomes a little boring at times.

Director Joachim Rønning, delivering his second Disney franchise film after Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in 2017, (another mildly enjoyable but largely needless and forgettable sequel), does do an adequate job of handling this film’s set-pieces. There are decent visual effects throughout, and the film boasts some appealing fantasy imagery, especially in its darker moments when Maleficent reconnects with more of her kind in a series of underground tunnels and caverns.

Jolie once again has fun in the title role, with her large black horns and pronounced cheekbones adding to her domineering onscreen presence, but she isn’t given nearly as much to chew on as she was in the first film, and indeed all of the characters here feel underdeveloped. At the end of the day, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is an okay sequel that has some decent moments, and fans of the first film are sure to find at least some stuff to enjoy here, but it also doesn’t really live up to its potential and ultimately feels somewhat needless.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is now playing in theatres across Canada.

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