In this new era of Disney live-action remakes, there have been highs and lows. One of the higher highs, in my opinion, was the first Maleficent. While not a perfect movie, it felt like an inventive take on the Sleeping Beauty story. It was an example of what these remakes should be. Not a carbon copy, but something a bit different with something familiar. So, I was looking forward to this sequel for that reason. Plus, the addition of Michelle Pfeiffer in any movie goes a long way. So, did this movie cast a similar spell on me like the first one did, or was this a cursed experience?
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil was directed by Joachim Rønning, who also directed Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and it shows. From a strictly visual standpoint, the film is stunning. It’s the kind of movie that one just knows had beautiful storyboards. Rønning really knows how to show a beautiful story. However, he struggles to tell a beautiful story and is unable to completely tie it together. The pacing is all over the place here. Moments will seem incredibly rushed just to get to point B as quickly as possible. However, then the movie will suddenly slog around point B for an eternity, making the audience lose patience and not even want to get to point C. I think the issue here is that Rønning was so lost trying to create pretty visuals that the story got away from him.
The plot of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is nothing special. It’s an amalgamation of a bunch of fantasy tropes one has seen a million times before. This movie goes to the well of famous fantasy too often to have much of an original thought of its own. It even steals major plot points from Game of Thrones almost wholesale, just with a Disney glaze over them. It’s one of those movies where one is unsure who the main character is, and because of that, it feels incredibly messy. There are moments where the audience will be suckered into what is going on, but in the next moment, the movie will jump to something completely different that is loosely tied together. I don’t think the writers, producers, and director knew what they truly wanted this movie to be, so they threw a lot at the wall to see what would stick. Sadly, not much did.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
All the actors in this movie are doing their best with the material. They make the most of the time they are given. Surprisingly enough, the titular Maleficent, portrayed wonderfully by Jolie once again, doesn’t have all that much screen time, and when she does, she doesn’t have all that much to do. Maleficent rarely speaks, and the character herself has no agency in the story. All the events in the story happen around her, and she quietly stares at them. In a movie called Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, it never really feels at any point like her movie. It feels more like Aurora’s movie; her character has far more to do here than Maleficent does. Elle Fanning stays the course of being one of most promising up-and-coming actors out there. She does well with her share. However, the reason I am giving this section high praise is because Michelle Pfeiffer is hamming it up hardcore in this movie and I enjoyed it. There is absolutely no depth to this villain. She does villain stuff for the sake of being a villain. However, they got Michelle Pfeiffer to do all this cliché stuff, and Michelle Pfeiffer always brings it. I was entertained every moment she was onscreen, which was honestly quite a bit of the movie. She is probably in the movie more than Maleficent is. It’s worth checking out just for her performance.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score by Geoff Zanelli is serviceable. It does nothing to leave a lasting impact but does enough to accompany the visuals and elicit the proper emotion out of the audience. It’s just not all that memorable. But it isn’t awful, and it isn’t obnoxious. I think it just fulfilled its purpose. No more, no less.
Outside of Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance, the strongest aspect of the film is the visuals, which should be expected given that Disney is paying the bills. That being said, there are genuinely stunning visuals to be found here. There is a sequence near the middle of the film where Maleficent wakes up in a location that looks like a bird’s nest, and it is oozing with creativity. It’s a visual buffet that will gives those who love art enough to chomp on.
While I did enjoy Maleficent: Mistress of Evil for the most part, I consider it a bit of a disappointment. It’s is a step down from the first one for all the issues I mentioned above. It does very little to warrant its existence. However, since it does exist, it has some aspects that make it worth a look, like solid performances and some cool visual candy. It’ll do enough to appease a potential youngster one may want to bring to it. However, the lacking story, the confused characterization, and the forgettable score unfortunately leave this movie destined to be lost in the shuffle of the large Disney+ library.