Saturday, October 26, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)

Today I saw MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL (2019), the sequel to MALEFICENT (2014), reviewed here last night.

As the new film opens, Aurora (Elle Fanning), who was declared Queen of the Moors by her Fairy Godmother Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), has just become engaged to Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson, replacing Brenton Thwaites of the first movie).

Maleficent, always wary of humans despite her love for the very human Aurora, is skeptical of the match but agrees to attend an engagement dinner hosted by Philip's parents King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer).

While Philip's father is genuinely thrilled that Philip and Aurora's marriage should help cement peace between the humans of his kingdom and the fairy folk of the Moors, it's unknown to all that Queen Ingrith has some very nasty plans afoot...starting with the destruction of her future daughter-in-law's beloved Godmother.

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL is worthwhile, though I didn't find it as good as the earlier film; for a quick comparison, I'd term it a pleasant 2-1/2 star entertainment compared to the first film's solid 3 stars.

As in the first film, it's largely Jolie's show, and she runs away with every scene she's in. The subtitle, MISTRESS OF EVIL, while catchy, is inaccurate; Maleficent may look scary and have a "reputation," but in truth she's the protector of those who cannot save themselves from evil.

Jolie's Maleficent does have occasion to, one might say, let her inner "green Hulk" emerge, but she also has some lovely comedic moments, such as the scenes where her loyal servant Diaval (Sam Riley, returning from the first film) coaches her on etiquette and the art of small talk. The humorous banter between Maleficent and Diaval provides highlights in both films. I also continue to find her emotional connection with Aurora quite moving.

Fanning is a sweet and lovely Aurora, who also has the requisite spunk when needed, and Dickinson is an improvement on his predecessor in the role of Philip, showing greater maturity.

Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, and Juno Temple also reprise their roles as the trio of Good Fairies who are Aurora's "Aunties"; if only the CGI caricatures didn't look quite so creepy!

There's an attempt to give Pfeiffer's character some motivation, but it's fairly weak tea, and it's completely lacking when it comes to her evil servant (Jenn Murray). It's true evil often doesn't have a reason, it simply is, but she was so unpleasant that I didn't enjoy watching her at all.

In this and other regards the film suffers in focusing too much on war rather than character. I commented regarding the first film that the battle scenes could have been trimmed, and here they were allowed to grow even more excessive, at the expense of quieter moments examining people and relationships. An attempt to shoehorn in the problems of an entirely new set of characters with whom Maleficent shares much in common is not entirely successful either.

The film is notably longer than the previous movie, 118 minutes to the first film's 97, and I think the story could easily have not only been somewhat reshaped but trimmed. It's interesting to note that while Linda Wolverton wrote the first film, here she was joined by two additional writers, Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue. We can't know who contributed what, but given Wolverton's solid track record one does wonder about "too many cooks."

A couple of scenes in particular were way over the top, notably the attempt to gas the fairy folk at the wedding. This being Disney, it's not a spoiler that all's well that ends well, but I'm sure I'm not the only person who thought uncomfortably of the Holocaust, which is not where you want your mind to go when enjoying a Disney film.

While it's perhaps easier to articulate what the negative issues were, despite those problems I did have quite a nice morning at the movies watching this film. The performances of Jolie, Fanning, and Riley are all excellent, and there are some real crowd-pleasing moments for their characters in the final scenes, in particular. I'm glad I spent part of my weekend watching this pair of movies.

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL was directed by Joachim Ronning and filmed by Henry Braham.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated PG. As with the first film, there are a few moments which could easily disturb young children, but it's family friendly in other regards.

A trailer is on YouTube.


Blogger Irene said...

Your feelings about this movie pretty much match up with what I have read from others. I really don't know if I'm going to get a chance to see this in the theater, but I would really like to if for no other reason than the good things you mention.

8:22 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for that info, Irene. I hadn't read other reviews in advance so that's interesting.

Since seeing it I read a review by Todd Pickering at MousePlanet which seems to align pretty closely with my thoughts, if you or anyone else would care to check it out.

Best wishes,

7:08 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

That is one of the reviews I was thinking about when I wrote my comments! :) I don't normally read reviews either but because I wasn't sure I could make it to see this movie, I did.

7:21 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's a fun coincidence, Irene! I hope you can catch the movie. If you do, I'd be most interested in your thoughts.

Best wishes,

7:25 PM  

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