Title: ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’
Director: Joachim Rønning (‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’)
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Harris Dickinson, Sam Riley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Juno Temple and Michelle Pfeiffer
Sometimes the seemingly purest ally can ultimately become the most formidable enemy, and vice versa, even in fairy tales. Connections are continuously being tested in the upcoming adventure film, ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.’ The follow-up to the hit 2014 fantasy movie, ‘Maleficent,’ which Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures will release in theaters this Friday, intriguingly places the title character and and her adopted daughter, Princess Aurora, together, to face new enemies in a bid to protect the magical land they share together.
The drama, which was directed by Joachim Rønning,cleverly infuses some of Maleficent’s backstory and history into the plot. It also relatably highlights how a disagreement over land and politics drives groups to become divided, and eventually battle in war, before a brave few on both sides do whatever it takes to finally implement peace again.
‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ picks up where its predecessor left off; Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) has just accepted the marriage proposal of her beloved Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson, who made a name for himself in last year’s indie drama, ‘Beach Rats,’ and took over the role in the Disney sequel from Brenton Thwaites, who appeared in the original fantasy film). When the duo informs their respective parents, including Aurora’s godmother, the title character (Angelina Jolie), and Philip’s mother and father, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) and King John (Robert Lindsay), they hesitantly agree to consider the union between their kingdoms, despite their long-standing differences.
When Aurora is then accompanied by Maleficent and the mistress’ servant and friend, Diaval (Sam Riley), to the castle where Philip and his parents live, in order to celebrate the upcoming nuptials, tension soon arises between both sides, despite their attempts to be civil to each other. But the unease between both families instead begins escalating again, much to the young couple’s dismay. Despite John’s genuine desire to end the conflict with Maleficent’s kingdom, Ingrith doesn’t truly support her husband’s true vision for peace, as she secretly harbors a desire to eliminate all fairies who live in the Moors. In order to carry out her vision, the Queen works to build a close, trusting relationship with her soon-to-be daughter-in-law.
Feeling betrayed by her adopted daughter’s decision to still marry the prince, even after the families’ conflict-driven dinner, Maleficent is surprised to meet, and be taken in by, Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and other fairies who resemble her. Her fellow fairies hold the same animosity for Ingrith, who’s one of the humans who leads the hunt to engage war on the Moors. As Maleficent and her new tribe of allies prepare for a battle with their oppressors, who are led by Ingrith and wish to eradicate who they consider to be rebels and menaces to society, both sides must gather the strength needed to battle for survival.
‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ is an intriguing, complex and unique take on the live action adaptation of a classic fairy tale. Screenwriters Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster and Linda Woolverton commendably aimed to expose the perplexities and mysterious that drove the title antagonist’s emotions and motivations in the first movie.
Unfortunately, Maleficent’s character development didn’t always live up to the high expectations that are attached to the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ folk lore. With the introduction of Conall into the franchise, as he aims to protect the eponymous antagonist, as well as their overall kind, from Queen Ingrith’s planned atrocities, he also offers Maleficent information about their history, including their feud with mankind. That backstory ultimately makes the title character feel as less of a threat to Aurora and her fellow humans.
The scribes of the second adventure follow-up in the ‘Maleficent’ live-action series also admirably incorporated Ingrith’s backstory into the plot, which satisfactorily explains her inspiration in launching a war on Maleficent and her fellow fairies. But combined with Aurora’s determination to make her relationship with Philip work, while also standing up for her beliefs and independence against both her godmother and the Queen, all three female characters’ arcs disappointingly feel rushed, and don’t have the chance to fully chronicle the fearless leaders’ potential.
The plot for ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ does fully and truly shine in the fact that it represents modern-day society’s need to find a common ground for different groups to bond over, and find peace in together. With the help of King John, Aurora and Philip choose to find the peace in everyone, no matter how differently they look or think. While the title character appeared to be unnecessarily cruel, to both audiences and her fellow characters, in ‘Maleficent,’ her new alliance with Conall and their fellow fairies gave her a more relatable, and even somewhat compassionate, aura. Maleficent’s shown to appear somewhat dominating over her adopted daughter because she cares about her survival, and not just because she wants to control the way she leads her life. Ingrith ultimately seems to be the true dominating, uncaring and authoritative leader of the follow-up, as she willingly engages in war to serve her own purposes.
‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ at times faces a challenge of balancing how much information about both the title character and Queen Ingrith to include, while also highlighting Aurora’s determination to maintain her love and peace with both her fiancé and godmother. The sequel also alluringly places Maleficent and and her adopted daughter together, to face new enemies in a bid to protect the magical land they share together, despite their differences. Despite the at-times underdeveloped storylines of all three characters, the adventure drama relatably highlights how a disagreement over land and politics drives groups to become divided, and eventually battle in war, before a brave few on both sides do whatever it takes to finally find peace again.