By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
This is the same exact rating that I gave the first Maleficent movie. And it is for mainly the same reasons, that I found this second installment somewhat dull. Maleficent, the “evil” fay from the Sleeping Beauty story just isn’t developed or portrayed in any truly interesting ways. Sure the audience get glimpses of her dark side and get to see her use her amazing powers, but this continued iteration of the character truly lacks bite. In fact the most interesting character isn’t the lead, but turns out to be a power-hungry queen portrayed by Michelle Pfeifer. However, even this new element is not enough to elevate this film above mediocrity.
Angelina Jolie returns as the titular Maleficent, a powerful and feared fay who lives in the Moors with the fairies. Since the last movie, Maleficent has let her beloved stepdaughter Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) reign as Queen. Though Aurora enjoys ruling her new kingdom, her heart wants a romance with Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) from a neighboring kingdom. Though Maleficent initially disaproves of this union, she wishes to keep her stepdaughter happy and reluctantly agrees to meet with the new in-laws, King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). Even though the king, Prince Philip, and Aurora see this union as an opportunity for peace, the duplicitous queen has some plans of her own.
Written by Linda Woolverton, Noah Harpster, Micah Fitzerman-Blue, and directed by Joachim Rønning, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is not only a mostly dull film, but is a bit of a mess when it comes to its story. The filmmakers try to make their movie topical by creating a villain that is beat-for-beat copied from today’s headlines. This theme is so on bluntly on the nose that one could suffer from nosebleeds as a result. The writers also stuff in a backstory which explains Maleficent’s background and how she came to be so powerful. The result is a bloated, though sometimes entertaining mess.
Considering that she is the main character of this movie, Maleficent doesn’t have much to say or do. It is like Angelina Jolie is being dragged along annoyingly in an obligatory cash grab by Disney. It is clearly a perfect example of a “phoned-in” performance. Michelle Pfeiffer is the only one that seems to be having fun here and despite her obviously conceived villain, her joyous and energetic performance as Queen Ingrith actually makes the character fun to watch. Elle Fanning returns as Princess Aurora, as does Sam Riley, Juno Temple, Imelda Staunton, and Leslie Manville. All of whom perform adequately, given the limitations of their characters. Newcomers Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sam Riley, and Ed Skrein give fine turns as well, but face similar limitations.
I don’t know how financially successful this sequel will be, but I do seriously hope this is the last installment of a totally uninteresting franchise. Disney and its filmmakers are going to have to do a lot better to keep me invested at all, because at this point, I just don’t care enough about these characters. I am now two movies in and I simply do not have any desire for any further “adventures.”