Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Review by Rich Cline | 2/5

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
dir Joachim Ronning
scr Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster, Linda Woolverton
prd Joe Roth, Angelina Jolie, Duncan Henderson
with Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer, Elle Fanning, Harris Dickinson, Sam Riley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lesley Manville, Juno Temple, Imelda Staunton, Robert Lindsay, Ed Skrein, Jenn Murray, David Gyasi
release US/UK 18.Oct.19
19/UK Disney 1h58

pfeiffer dickinson ejiofor
See also:
Maleficent (2014)

fanning, jolie, riley
In returning to this fractured fairy tale, Linda Woolverton once again comes up with a story that pushes the nature of a children's movie to its limits. This time the central plot involves both genocide and a reductive view of women as vengeful killers. As before, it's livened up by super-whizzy Disney effects, plus a cast that goes for broke. But the story is problematic on so many levels that the film isn't easy to watch.
As mysterious forces prowl the forest, woodland Queen Aurora (Fanning) falls in love with Prince Phillip (Dickinson), whose parents King John and Queen Ingrid (Lindsay and Pfeiffer) rule the human realm. As they meet for an engagement dinner, Aurora's godmother Maleficent (Jolie) is framed for putting a spell on the king. Fleeing, she discovers the secret homeland of her horned-winged kind. But benevolent leader Conall (Ejiofor) is at odds with Borra (Skrein) about making peace with the humans. Not that peace is likely when Queen Ingrid is planning to massacre the entire faerie world.
The plot bounces between cute romance and callous violence (carefully rendered to maintain a PG). Aside from Aurora and some faeries (such as the squeaky Staunton, Manville and Temple), the women are all furious about something, happily killing anyone who crosses them. Of course, Maleficent is simply misunderstood, temper notwithstanding. Ingrid is far more "mistress of evil" than she is. As events ramp up, this becomes a mammoth battle movie. Except that the motivations never ring true, and the final scenes bring a bizarrely sudden shift in tone.

There's not much an actor can do in this digital-intensive atmosphere. Jolie is all razor cheekbones and blood-red lips, perfect for glowering. Pfeiffer has fun chomping nastily on the scenery. Fanning and Dickinson try to add tiny elements of personality to their young lovers even as they seem lost in green-screen world. But then everyone is so swamped by the costumes, makeup and effects that it's obvious that nuanced characters were not a priority.

If this wasn't a children's movie, then the relentless grisliness might have added a sadistic sense of proper horror. But the film is edited to cut away from any consequences of murder, including a shockingly ill-judged sequence in a locked-down church. Sensitive kids will be darkly disturbed by this kind of thing, especially when characters switch jarringly from kind to killing to flirting within the space of about 10 minutes.

cert pg themes, violence 13.Oct.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall