It has been five years since ‘Maleficent’ first came out and made a killing in the global box office and since that time, it’s been out of my mind except for the memes. There were no unfinished storylines that needed to be revisited that I can remember, and the story felt whole and complete. So a sequel feels extraneous and forced, and ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ seems aware of this and addresses it by drowning the film with plot, characters, special effects, action sequences, and a whole lot of music.
‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ is an overblown assault on the senses. The direction is focused entirely on highlighting the 3D effects and takes full advantage of its G rating to fill every scene with as much magic and splendor that the CGI budget will allow. The film feels bloated with fairy creatures, magical effects, flying, new characters, unnecessary drama, and a whole lot of exposition.
The film takes place five years since the previous movie. Aurora (Elle Fanning) is now queen of The Moors, the land of the fairies, which is situated at the opposite bank of a river to the human kingdom belonging to Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson), who asks for Aurora’s hand in marriage. But the queen’s godmother Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is cautious about love and humans, based on her history with both as explored in the first movie.
But for the love of her goddaughter, Maleficent agrees to meet with Prince Phillip’s parents, King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), and sparks ignite when Queen Ingrith instigates a quarrel with Maleficent and blames her for putting a curse on the king.
Aurora and Maleficent turn away from each other and when Maleficent is shot by an iron bullet as she tries to escape, she discovers she is not alone in the world. There are more like her and they’ve been in hiding for a long time from the humans and have now found a reason to return.
There’s actually a whole lot more going on in the film than just that. There’s kidnapped fairies, Queen Ingrith’s sinister plot that feels like a straight up allegory for contemporary issues on racism and bigotry, Phillip doing everything right by Aurora so that he can earn her love by the end of the movie, and a whole subplot for why the dark fairies have been in hiding and why Queen Ingrith is so angry that’s told in a long speech.
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In fact, there’s a lot of speeches here, all boiling down to bring these two factions into a big war. For a children’s movie with a huge anti-war message, the film surely takes a lot of pleasure in staging an over-extended battle scene between the humans and winged dark fairies. It’s a huge fight using bright red dust fired from cannons and catapults and guns, while the dark fairies attack from above like predator birds.
In its one hour and fifty-eight minute running time, the musical score never ends. It’s a large orchestra scoring every move. There’s special effects bleeding out in every moment with a hyper-camera capturing everything in such a way that truly maximizes the 3D experience. There are moments for every creature that they’ve shown, even if they don’t do anything really to the story.
The script is so weak and thin that not even Jolie, Pfeiffer, or Fanning can do anything but play it for all its campy potential. By not taking it too seriously, the actors can navigate through the plentiful backstories that are narrated in a big speech right in the middle of the action because the film never slows down enough to set it up earlier.
‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ feels like it’s everything, including the kitchen sink into the mix just to warrant its existence; including dealing with contemporary themes like fake news, discrimination and bigotry, anti-war sentiments, and not giving in to what people want you to be.
It’s a lot to take, a veritable assault on the senses; and while it’s not my cup of tea, I’m sure there are a lot of hyper-active children who wouldn’t mind the sensory barrage. While the war sequence feels a little long and can be rather violent, it seems that the movie is really there for the kids.