Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, directed by Joachim Rønning (Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) is a sequel to 2014’s reverse Sleeping Beauty fairytale. However, having lost the novelty of a villain-centric twist on a beloved classic, this film frequently feels obnoxious and fails to provide a compelling extension of this world.
The movie follows Maleficent as she and Aurora face new challenges when Aurora gets engaged to Prince Phillip and the motives of Phillip’s family are brought into question. Since the classic Sleeping Beauty ends soon after Aurora awakes, this film attempts to expand upon the fairytale with an original story, and for the most part, it simply doesn’t work.
A significant issue with the movie is that the film is simply too slow. Clocking in at nearly two hours long, one can’t help but feel like there is simply too much filler in the story. A subplot exploring Maleficent’s identity is never fully developed, and likely could have been cut in favor of focusing on the main conflict with more depth. Ultimately, the movie tries to juggle too many things, and as a result, it never feels fully satisfying.
Additionally, the film attempts to introduce so many new characters that it eventually becomes overwhelming. Though some of the characters do have compelling arcs, a majority of those characters are ones with whom the audience will already have a pre-existing connection from the first movie. Despite the high-profile stars that portray them, all of the new additions feel archetypal and meaningless.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of this film is that the talented cast feels wasted. More often than not, the movie ends up seeming like a competition between the three stars Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, and Michelle Pfeiffer as to who can give the biggest and flashiest performance. Any subtlety or range goes out the window in this film. Meanwhile, gifted supporting actors such as Chiwetel Ejiofor and Harris Dickinson are left to the sideline.
Furthermore, the movie attempts to make a statement about war, but in trying to make the film feel more relevant to modern politics, the writers succeed only in alienating viewers from the sense of wonder that makes fairytales so appealing. Although there is always a moral or message in this type of story, few are as overtly political as that of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, and the movie suffers as a result.
Visually, the film is a bit of a mixed bag. For every grand bit of production design or beautiful use of color, there is a CGI shot that feels cartoon-like and out-of-place. The movie’s sound design is also somewhat lackluster, particularly in relation to the sounds that were created for the various fairy creatures living in Maleficent’s kingdom.
While it will likely appeal to fans of its predecessor, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is somehow both underwhelming and overbearing at the same time. Despite all the talent in front of the camera, the script simply isn’t strong enough for the film to be worthwhile.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil opens in theaters on October 18.