Movie Review: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Disney, we have a problem. Well, you have a problem. What the heck was going through your collective minds when you saw the rushes for MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL? Who could have thought that this mess of a movie could somehow fit your company’s image of being the world’s premier provider of wholesome family entertainment?

After a five year absence, the fairy with the worst case of bad PR is back. Since we last saw her, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) has been hanging out with her goddaughter, Aurora (Elle Fanning, A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK; THE BEGUILED; TRUMBO), who has been elevated by Maleficent to be the queen of the Moors. (I guess that makes Maleficent the Queen Godmother.) Aurora hasn’t just been ruling over the fairies and all other magical creatures that live there though. It seems she’s also been busy cultivating a relationship with Philip (now played by Harris Dickinson, THE DARKEST MINDS), the prince of the neighbouring kingdom of Ulstead. Although it’s been a peaceful time, the word in Ulstead is that Maleficent is evil. After Philip proposes marriage to Aurora, his parents, King John (Robert Lindsay, GRACE OF MONACO) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer, AVENGERS: ENDGAME; ANT-MAN AND THE WASP; MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS; MOTHER!) invite Aurora and Maleficent over to the castle for dinner. The two women clash and King John suddenly falls into a deep sleep, for which Maleficent is blamed. The young couple press on with their nuptials at the insistence of Ingrith and Maleficent takes flight. What Aurora doesn’t know though, is that Ingrith isn’t what she seems. When Maleficent gets shot down by one of Ingrith’s aides, she’s rescued by Conall (Chiwetel Egiofor; THE LION KING; MARY MAGDALENE; THE MARTIAN) who not only nurses her back to health, he introduces her to a whole new world she didn’t know existed. This then sets the stage for an epic battle between the forces of good and evil.

I’ll begin by saying that I am not a fan of the first MALEFICENT movie. To start with, who names their child “Maleficent”? That’s like naming your son “Damien” after 1976 or “Adolf” after 1945. You just don’t do something like that unless you want your child to grow up to be a nasty piece of work. Even though the Disney press kit calls her their “most notorious villain”, I never thought Maleficent was evil. She was simply a fairy scorned. Had Stefan not dumped her and cut off her wings, she would have lived a sweet and happy life in the Moors. With this sequel, Disney has decided to double down and even refer to her as the “mistress of evil” in the title but she’s still not evil in the slightest. She’s simply protecting her loved ones and there’s nothing wrong with that. She’s a victim; not a villain.

If only that was the sole problem with this film though. There is so much that’s wrong with MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL. For starters, this is absolutely not a film for children unless you want to scare the bejeesus out of them. Bambi’s mother’s death has traumatized generations of children. Here, we have genocide as Ingrith’s army goes to town on the fairies, pixies, tree ogres and feys. Oh yeah, there is a whole new species of creature introduced in this film and they’re pretty important to the story. Then there’s the star of the film, Maleficent herself. She’s barely there as the story focuses more on Ingrith and her ethnocleansing machinations. As much as I was underwhelmed by the first film, at least Jolie made Maleficent an interesting character to watch. For whatever reason, story writer Linda Woolverton and Norwegian director Joachim Rønning took a sharp left here and basically wrote the star out of her own movie. They also deviated far, far away from the essence of the Sleeping Beauty legend, instead giving audiences a tale of greed, lust for power and intolerance wrapped up with a happily ever after bow ending. As the closing credits rolled, I turned to my colleague and asked her if Woolverton and Rønning were on drugs when they made this film, that’s how messed up this story is. My colleague happened to be thinking the same thing and she felt that maybe the film would have made more sense to us had we been the ones who were high. It’s something I might consider if I ever want to watch this film again, not that that’s ever going to happen.

I’d like to think that MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL will go down in cinematic history as a franchise killer but somehow I doubt it will. Unless this film really tanks at the box office or Jolie says it’s just not worth the paycheque, I think we can expect to see MALEFICENT 3 in the near future.

You have been warned!

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, October 18th, 8:30 am HK time!

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