Maleficent and her goddaughter Aurora begin to question the complex family ties that bind them as they are pulled in different directions by impending nuptials, unexpected allies, and dark new forces at play. (from IMDb)
Some of the best sequels for successful films are often planned ahead of time in some kind of way--although, that is a rarity. It's also true that unplanned sequels can exceed all expectations and sometime even prove better than its predecessor. Sadly, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, AKA the sequel to 2014's popular Disney film that centers around the villain from the classic Sleeping Beauty tale, feels mostly unwarranted.
For starters, the first film ends with Maleficent largely being redeemed and no longer considered evil. Yet, Mistress of Evil literally explains this away in the voiceover introduction as being that most people "forgot" about her transformation and only remember her as being evil still. It feels like lazy writing just to excuse the existence of this movie, and the story unfolds in a way that is only justified by this intentional oversight.
It also doesn't help that the story is a bit frustrating from the start, either. Maleficent's goddaughter, Aurora, wants to marry young prince Philip from the first film (recast with Harris Dickinson in the role this time), and his family wants to meet Aurora's. However, unbeknownst to somehow everyone, Philip's mother is evil, and wants the kingdom and throne for herself—-oh, and she wants Maleficent dead. Oh, and all fairy creatures. Her motivations don't seem justified, either, other than that she wants power (in other words, it doesn't seem like a magical creature ruined her childhood in some way). Furthermore, the story just feels bizarrely familiar and similar to many other films—-whether it's aspects of Kung Fu Panda 3 (Maleficent's not the only one of her kind), or Shrek 2 (the meet-the-parents dinner aspect, for example).
The only thing that even makes the movie remotely enjoyable is the performances. Angelina Jolie, although she has curiously less screen time this time around, is so good as Maleficent, and Michelle Pfeiffer is delightfully devious as the villain, Queen Ingrith. Elle fanning also has more screen time in this outing as Aurora, but some of the things she does, especially in relation to Maleficent, is just so frustrating and kind of out-of-character (it's the kind of frustrating that makes you want to yell at the screen because a character is being so dopey). It just seems odd that the things that made the first Maleficent so appealing — like especially Jolie's performance — are diminished for the sequel.
The other head-scratcher for this film is the amount of violence in it. It's seldom bloody (although there is some of that), but the darkness of Maleficent's winged character is only eclipsed by the violence of a big battle at the film's climax. It's not Lord of the Rings-grade battle violence, but it's a bit much for a PG-rated film, and I certainly wouldn't recommend this one to young audiences. Violence is really the main content to be wary of in this one, and it gets pretty heavy when the movie even focuses on the demise of some of the mythical woodland creatures. Also, there is a lot of emphasis put on magic and spells and potions and the like, which can, understandably so, make some viewers uncomfortable. And, if that's the case, I think it would be especially fine to skip this franchise.
All in all, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a surprisingly dark and dismal return to the world of Maleficent. If you're desperate for more of the character, it's probably worth a watch, but it definitely suffers from the dreaded "sequelitis," and is a disappointing follow-up to what was originally a decent fantasy film.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 10/26/19)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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