With the leads split up and the plot meandering between more interesting throw away concepts, the sequel is incapable of delivering what the first movie did. Catch it on streaming only if you loved the first one.
Somewhere in Mistress of Evil, buried so deep down that you can barely see it, is a weird and interesting original fantasy. A parable of the genocide against indigenous peoples and the power of collective revolution, painted with an aesthetic of dark angels and European folk-tale traditions.
But that isn’t marketable. So instead we have a fairly weak and meandering sequel to Maleficent.
The original film relied heavily on the relationship between Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and her pseudo-adopted daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning). The sequel separates them immediately, to its detriment. Separating your protagonists isn’t uncommon in a sequel (Empire Strikes Back as a prime example), nor is it necessarily a faux-pas.
But Maleficent‘s strongest point was its focus on the mother-daughter relationship. It was Beauty and the Beast-esque, complete with Maleficent’s ironic pet name for Aurora, “beasty”.
Mistress of Evil lacks this relationship, and on their own, it simply doesn’t work as well. Maleficent as a character and her plot are far more interesting than Aurora’s. It exposes her adopted daughter as a supporting character, who, though important to the plot, is not engaging enough to carry a b-plot on her own.
Now back to that aforementioned more-interesting-strange-fantasy-plot of Maleficent: it is, for lack of any better word, bonkers. But also devoid of anything more than aesthetic.
Upon being cast of out of the human world, Maleficent is rescued by her people, the Dark Fey (their moniker nor her connection to them is never explained). She discovers a hidden world of vaguely indigenous peoples-troped beings, safe from the ever-growing and imperialist humans. They are debating as to their future: should they go to war with the humans and reclaim their land? Or stay here and keep the life they have?
And that’s where the logic ends. Maleficent is important for reasons that are never adequately explained. Chiwetel Ejiofor, like in every role, brings a gravitas and seriousness to something that doesn’t deserve his talent. His character gives nonsensical lines about peace and hope. The peoples dance around a fire, chant, and appear in hides-based abodes, but no significant time is spent with this mythical race of beings beyond this.
They are an aesthetic, and nothing more. There is no intention with which they are presented, never more obvious than in the conclusion of their conflict, which boils down to “there are good people on both sides” nonsense.
Perhaps none of this would matter if it was stunning visually or something, but we never get enough time with the things that do look good. Much of the visual design of interest from the first film is lost. The set pieces and action are fine, but nothing more.
Michelle Pfeiffer sure seems to have a good time, and Jolie clearly loves this role. It was also a breath of fresh air to see the sheer amount of representation shown on screen, both within the human and fey kingdoms.
But that is all the positive that can be said. The rest of it isn’t bad enough to be interesting nor good enough to mention.
In Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” a sequel to the 2014 global box office hit, 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. The years have been kind to Maleficent and Aurora. Their relationship, born of heartbreak, revenge and ultimately love, has flourished. Yet the hatred between man and the fairies still exists. Aurora’s impending marriage to Prince Phillip is cause for celebration in the kingdom of Ulstead and the neighboring Moors, as the wedding serves to unite the two worlds. When an unexpected encounter introduces a powerful new alliance, Maleficent and Aurora are pulled apart to opposing sides in a Great War, testing their loyalties and causing them to question whether they can truly be family.