Albeit prudent, Disney’s Maleficent is a lousy retelling of the Sleeping Beauty villain. Robert Stormberg’s 2014 movie starts off wonderfully, giving an enticing backstory to the mistress of evil, however, the story immediately succumbs into CGI-laden mediocrity. Only the premise, Angelina Jolie’s wickedly enchanting performance, and the box office result (garnering $758 million worldwide, making it the fourth-highest-grossing movie of that year) excel in. Those factors alone have secured the way for Jolie to spearheading the sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, helmed by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales‘ director, Joachim Rønning.
Mistress of Evil serves more like a prolonged victory lap for Maleficent. The sequel reunites Jolie with Elle Fanning’s Aurora and other pivotal characters, including Sam Riley’s Diaval and the three pixy-aunties (Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville). Trust’s star, Harris Dickinson, replaces Brenton Thwaites as the Prince Charming, Philip. The narrative follows up Aurora and Philip’s budding romance as the two decide to get married. As it turns out, adversaries happen a lot before the happily-ever-after premise unrolls. While the sequel is able to overcome the desire to retracing the old formula, its attempt to move into a new territory is barely smooth.
The script—written by the first movie‘s writer, Linda Woolverton, along with Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue—consists of a thin narrative with outsized details. Mistress of Evil attempts to introduce audiences to a wider world-building beyond the now-vibrant and lively Moors. Firstly, the story leads us to Ulstead, Philip’s kingdom, where most people fear Maleficent, whom they perceive as a murderous witch. Philip’s mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) shows hostility towards Maleficent. Basically, that’s how the whole conflict in Mistress of Evil roots from. Younger audiences might find the whole set-up ordinary; but, older audiences will find the whole wedding arrangement unsettling. If you’re aware, the whole plot of Maleficent sequel is the PG reenactment of Game of Thrones’ infamous Red Wedding.
Secondly, Rønning will introduce us to the visually engaging world of winged fae. The legion of fae is formidable, showcasing gaudy performances from Ed Skrein, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Miyavi, and others to leverage the striking aerial battle in the third act. Sadly, their roles in the story are restricted to that battle only, even when their race holds a sacred secret of Maleficent’s origin. By the time the third act (cued by the red-adorned explosions in the sky), you will begin to feel that the story has just moved a little.
Only Jolie’s performance and her wardrobe collections that finally make Maleficent: Mistress of Evil bearable. Jolie barely surpasses her own performance in the first movie, as this Maleficent is a bit out of balance. She excels in portraying the character as a ruthless villain. When she attempts to be more humane, Jolie’s acting is a little awkward. However, when it comes to becoming an overpowered being, Jolie is Maleficent‘s finest element.
In the end, the whole venture in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, albeit ambitious, is a way too long and unnecessary.