Aly’s review of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a spot-on breakdown of what makes this undesired sequel hollow and strangely problematic. I’m admittedly less fond of the original Maleficent from 2014 than she is, but I appreciate her perspective on it. I haven’t watched it since the press screening, which was actually the first time she and I strongly disagreed after a movie date. (Awkward.) I’ve come to understand she’s usually more insightful than I am. She expects more out of her movies most of the time. I’m pretty satisfied with shiny baubles. Going into Mistress of Evil, I had contented myself with the possibility that it was a shallow, thoroughly mediocre modern Disney CGI-fest (like last year’s atrocious The Nutcracker and the Four Realms), with the bonus of Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer vamping.
It is all of that, but it’s somehow worse than my expectations. At least Nutcracker didn’t have potential to waste.
There are pitifully few sequences of Jolie and Pfeiffer doing their dueling monstrous matrons thing. Instead, the story focuses on Aurora (Elle Fanning) and her impending marriage to a boring prince whose evil mother Ingrith (Pfeiffer) wants to annihilate the fairies over whom Aurora was made queen by Maleficent in the first movie. The fairies are called the Moors, which has definite real-world racial connotations that Aly covers more adequately in her breakdown of the movie’s questionable politics. Maleficent’s direct brethren, the Fey, are introduced here as well. They’re sort of visually cool.
This isn’t the only Disney film to deal with colonization in some form, but it’s sloppier than Frozen II or Thor: Ragnarok, which both at least try to capture some semblance of rage-against-the-machine energy (as far as such films can, given the fact that they’re owned by Disney). There’s a lot of fantasy mumbo-jumbo about fairy legends and prophecies and ultra-powers and phoenix forces. It’s uninspired and uninteresting.
Jolie looks the part, and the makeup job on her is once again top-notch, although a vast majority of the movie is groundless CGI. The opening 20 or so minutes create a comedic Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner scenario, but not in an entertaining way. Before that, we get an introduction to the magical creatures that populate the fairy realm. They’re not particularly exciting. Tree people and elephant people and little fairies. It’s lacking in simplicity. It’s lacking in truth. Nothing here feels purposefully allegorical on any scale, large or small. The social implications? Half-hearted. The mother-daughter love stuff? Trite. It’s a disappointment.
Special features include featurettes with Jolie and the film’s production designers. Extended and deleted scenes are present for those who couldn’t get enough of the story during its present running time.