Movie Review: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Five years after the events of the first film, Aurora (Elle Fanning), who has been crowned the Queen of the Moors by Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) gets a marriage proposal from Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson), which she accepts. It looks like peace will finally reign between the humans and the Fey but destiny has other plans. Afdah Phillip's mother, Queen Ingrith doesn't want peace but longs for war and uses all her cunning to set a plan in motion which will totally destroy the Fey once and for all.

Angelina Jolie reprises her role from Disney's Maleficent (2014), which deconstructed the fable of Sleeping Beauty from the angle of its infamous antagonist. Maleficent pointed out that what we don't understand we consider evil. The evil witch didn't turn out to be actually evil after all and redeems herself by being the foster mother of the child she cursed. Since all this was basically established in the first film itself, there wasn't much left in the tale to expand upon in the sequel. This is why perhaps, despite all its visual wizardry, the film kind of loses its punch midway. The emotional appeal of the original goes missing.

Part of the problem is that Maleficent isn't evil enough. We know she isn't evil at heart and that kind of makes a mockery of the title. The other fact is that we don't see her exercising her powers to the fullest. We go in expecting a Dark Phoenix kind of a showdown but what we get is kind of underwhelming. This restraint subdues Jolie's impact on a film where she plays the title character and is also one of the producers. She's good at what she does but we have seen her doing it better five years ago.

Instead of making a case again about recognising the true face of evil rather than going by the appearances, director Joachim Rønning has concentrated on world-building and battle choreography. While both the things are brilliant -- we see more Maleficent like Dark Fey living on a huge nest in the ocean. They remind us of the creatures from Avatar. Then, the final war scenes are epic indeed. But somehow the proceedings lack a soul, despite the best efforts of Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays a peacenik Dark Fey in the film.

The film pits Jolie against Michelle Pfeiffer, who shines as the disgruntled Queen Ingrith not wanting anything to do with the Fey. It's the senior actor who comes on top in their encounters. Elle Fanning is back again as Aurora and makes for a fine Queen of the Moors. Sam Riley returns as Diaval, Maleficent’s raven who can be turned into a human. Harris Dickinson is woefully bland as Prince Phillip.

Director Joachim Rønning gets some parts right and some parts wonderfully wrong. Maybe what he needed was another fairy tale instead of stretching this one to its limits and making it sag in the process.

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