DIRECTOR: JOACHIM RØNNING | SCREENPLAY: LINDA WOOLVERTON | STARRING: ANGELINA JOLIE, ELLE FANNING, HARRIS DICKINSON, MICHELLE PFEIFFER, SAM RILEY, ROBERT LINDSAY | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
As any good fairytale sequel starts, the follow-up to 2014’s Maleficent begins not once but “twice upon a time”. Five years have passed, Aurora (Fanning) is now very much awake, ruling over the magical Moors as Queen, and the story as we knew it has been twisted and changed, as folklore often is, to turn Maleficent (Jolie) into the evil villain once more.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil opens as Prince Philip (now played by Harris Dickinson) gets down on one knee and asks Aurora to marry him. His father King John (Lindsay) sees this as the perfect opportunity to unite the Moors and the human kingdom of Ulstead, while his mother Queen Ingrith (Pfeiffer) reluctantly offers to host a celebratory feast, like any normal passive aggressive in-law would. Maleficent is coming to dinner, and despite her best efforts to practice pleasantries with raven familiar Diaval (Riley) and cover up her horns, you could cut the atmosphere with her razor-sharp cheekbones. Spells are cast, dietary requirements are not adhered to, and family pets are caught in the crossfire: it’s pretty much anyone’s idea of a meet the parents nightmare.
The fallout means the central relationship between Godmother and Goddaughter becomes secondary in the latter half of the film as we’re introduced to the ‘dark fae’, another world of fairy-like creatures, who look a lot like Maleficent and come to her rescue. While fleshing out Maleficent’s origins felt necessary, the attention given to this did feel like a departure from the rest of the story, only coming together in the final act, leaving the audience to wonder why we should care, or even why Maleficent would, about these unfamiliar characters.
What’s more, the ‘Mistress of Evil’ title feels unfairly placed on Maleficent. In this instalment, the fairy isn’t particularly wicked, even with the smokier eyes and new latex-inspired attire. In fact, any clouds of green smoke are very much justified, particularly as a new villain emerges to ultimately strike up a war between the neighbouring worlds. The costume design by Ellen Mirojnick is truly stunning in these scenes, bracing Queen Ingrith for battle in armour-like pearls and jewels.
While the writers may have tried to cram too much into this near two-hour fantasy, it is entertaining throughout, there are plenty of laughs to be had (“Pitchforks? Humans are hilarious.”), and the CGI battle scene is a colourful spectacle of fairy-dissolving red fireworks; surprisingly, the body count is pretty high.