As if not adhering to the original, or the fairy tale it was based off, wasn’t enough; this sequel doesn’t even follow its wayward predecessor.
It has been five years since the fairy Maleficent defeated the evil King Stephen and saved Princess Aurora from her own curse, but as fate would have it, people still treat Maleficent as a villain. Yet, when Prince Phillip asks for Aurora’s hand in marriage, Maleficent must mingle with humans as the courtship brings the worlds of humans and beasts closer together…
2014’s Maleficent, directed by Robert Stromberg, did nothing for the classic Disney villain. It transformed her into a paragon of true love; it boasted that all men are stupid, corrupt, or lackeys, and that Maleficent herself has true love for Aurora. For all its visual flare, the film was a disgusting mistreatment of a Disney legacy character.
But here we are, the sequel titled Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and a trailer boasting the character returning to her old ways of being evil incarnate. How does this happen??
Literally, the opening narration says: “People just… forgot.”
Are you actually kidding me? The film does address this later on, don’t worry, we will get to that.
But despite this, we are graced with Aurora being queen of the forest and the fairies. Huh. Then we are greeted with Prince Phillip, who has returned looking a lot more like Harris Dickinson than Brenton Thwaites this time, and is also apparently still relevant despite being side-lined as a joke in the first film. He proposes to Aurora almost immediately, and what follows is Maleficent: the gag-a-minute “fish-out-of-water” segment of the film, where she has to practise smiling, and understand what “small talk” is.
Does… Does Disney know what the name “Maleficent” entails? It comes from “Malefic” which means to cause harm, to have malignant influence, to be malicious. Heck, the film’s title Mistress of Evil, isn’t it? When?
The “mistress of evil” here is Michelle Pfeiffer’s character, Phillip’s mother; Queen Ingrith. Who is so full of evil intent towards fairies, beasts and wilderness that she has an allergy to flowers, and she unintentionally shoots a crossbow bolt into a beast statue. That’s just how she’s introduced. What follows immediately is her secret laboratory underneath the castle where she is making fairy-murdering weapons of war (without anyone noticing!) As this is the antagonist, and the lines of war between humans and beasts is established, anything Maleficent does isn’t inherently “evil”, she’s fighting prejudice.
The film also butchers Maleficent’s original curse, which was already bruised from the 2014 film. The curse on Aurora that would see her die (fall asleep forever) when she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel. In this film, the curse is applied to a specific spinning wheel. What? Why didn’t we just put a cork on that spindle?? Or burn it?? Like… I don’t know… THE ORIGINAL FILM.
On a technical level, this brings us to the next issue, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil‘s editing and storytelling style. Often, when a scene needs to end, a convenient thing will occur, that keeps the story going. Unfortunately, these are so convenient as well as often massive Chekhov’s Guns. The story doesn’t develop naturally, it just blunders along and our characters react to it.
Oh, and the final element. And spoilers ahead: Why did everyone conveniently “forget” that Maleficent ended the 2014 film as a paragon of goodness? Because evil Queen Ingrith spread false propaganda about her. What is this, a political subtext? Plus, she says in the same breath how this was the “tale” she had told, of an evil fairy destroying a kingdom. It is literally retconning the original film out of existence. The 1959 Sleeping Beauty was propaganda against Maleficent’s true nature.
It is funny how the film pretends to have subtext about war, and unity, and love, and family, when it can’t do any of those things with any substance.
What’s truly mesmerising is the amount of design work that goes into these films. If this was anything else, anything else, it could be looked at more favourably. Ever wonder why Maleficent in the 2014 film has giant feathery wings she never had before? Or why no other “fairy” looks like her? Well, think no more: this film tells us she is a Dark Fae, and there are more of them out there. Where they come from does look impressive, and inventive, adding to the visual spectacle that you cannot deny the films have.
It is unfortunate then that the interest in these characters is purely skin deep. They are monstrously shallow creations. Yet they dragged Chiwetel Ejiofor in to play one of them!
It isn’t clear who this film is for. The tone is radically different than the previous one, gone are the dark and Gothic visuals (what little semblance they had to the 1959 film are gone completely). Little tethering the two films together will have you questioning what actually happened, while constant jabs at the Disney classic are brutal to any long term fans of it: “She ain’t no sleeping beauty anymore!” “Oh, I see what you did there!”
Sure, visually interesting, but the story is trite and full of conveniences. The characters are predictable and seeing Maleficent reduced to a whimsical pantomime character, even threatening giving her a love interest, makes anyone who knows the character gag. There’s no chemistry between Aurora and Phillip, not before, and certainly not now, which is kind of important in a film that revolves around a wedding.
Additional Marshmallows: Amazing how screenplay writers, three of them, can think they can rip up a classic movie, yet replace it with an overburdened mess like this.
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