Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
by Hope Madden
I’m not going to lie to you, I hated Maleficent. Not because it was a mediocre CGI mess, although it certainly was that. I hated that film because Disney turned one of its absolutely most magnificent villains—one of cinema’s most magnificent villains—into a heartbroken, misunderstood victim.
But five years after Maleficent’s (Angelina Jolie) maternal love saves Aurora (Elle Fanning) and several kingdoms in the process, humans are back to whispering evil stories about the guardian of the Moors. Meanwhile, Aurora and Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) have decided to marry.
That first family dinner doesn’t go super well.
Stuffed to the antlers with sidetracks and subplots, characters and ideas, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil shows you everything and articulates nothing.
Flashes of social commentary stand out. In the name of greed, evil leadership whips up fear amongst the population to justify racism, jingoism, colonialism and even genocide.
Despite Maleficent’s fangs, the fact that the film clearly leans toward giving the colonizers one more chance as opposed to siding with indigenous rebellion renders the film biteless.
But who could resist Chiwetel Ejiofor? He calls for peace and languishes in some kind of Disney side character purgatory as wizened and wearied Conall, one of the winged Fey who look to Maleficent to lead their kind.
Dear Hollywood: please give Chiwetel Ejiofor better parts in better movies.
Ejiofor is hardly the only talent wasted in this slog. Littered amid the carnage of so, so many side plots are Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple, again bothersome at best as three pixies. Sam Riley and Ed Skrein are allowed to smirk and grunt, respectively. Only Jenn Murray stands out, weirdly sadistic playing the queen’s very small enforcer.
Even Fanning once again comes up lame, asked only to beam and blush, though Dickinson has it worse. Be quietly noble, his direction seems to insist. Noble, but never rude.
The film should be Jolie’s show, but she does little more than pose. Robbed of her imposing wickedness by the end of the first movie, she now just seems bored and is more often than not upstaged by Michelle Pfeiffer’s Queen Ingrith.
Ingrith is written with no more depth than any of the other few dozen speaking characters to grace the screen in this overpopulated mess, but it’s always fun to see Pfeiffer chew scenery up and spit it out.
Director Joachim Ronning shows moments of visual inspiration, splashing color across the screen one moment, forbiddingly grim grey tones the next, but the little magical creatures rarely suggest the CGI budget was spent very wisely.
What was the point again?
Oh, right. Maleficent made $758 million.