We didn't know we wanted more Angelina Jolie as Maleficent until we saw her in all her glory. When it comes to the story of Maleficent, one of the most terrifying villains of all time (come on, who curses a baby?), there are high expectations. While I love every second of Jolie on the screen, I've just never been a fan of Elle Fanning as Aurora.
But I digress, it doesn't “break” the film for me, and I still enjoyed the movie greatly. It is a visually stunning world that expands to include the Dark Fey as well. There are multiple underlying storylines taking place in this film that I think fans were all dying to explore.
“What makes a family, and what is it that brings them together?” Jolie says. “Is Aurora better suited to a life spent running around barefoot in the Moors with fairies, where all creatures are treated as equals, or is she meant to be living in a castle in the human world with human problems and concerns?”
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil takes a deeper dive into the characters and how their lives have changed since the last film.
“One of the reasons the first ‘Maleficent’ was so successful is because it had a very strong and relatable emotional journey for the audience, and in our story, Aurora is basically moving out, which is something all parents dread, and that’s exactly how Maleficent feels,” Director Joachim Rønning says.
Another high point is the ensemble of an epic female cast. While Fanning has grown as an actor since the first film where she was only 14, Her character has also matured over the years. Joining them is the amazing Michelle Pfeiffer as Queen Ingrith, Prince Phillip's mother. Her anger radiates from the screen, and you can tell she is a force to be reckoned with.
“It’s always fun playing a villain,” Pfeiffer says. “The challenge is finding the humanity in a character like Queen Ingrith, because there is always the option of just playing it all one color and just being pure evil, but my favorite villains always have a humanity about them so that you kind of feel sorry for them while hating them at the same time.”
The center of our story is around Aurora and Phillip's engagement and joining of their kingdoms. Not the kingdom you remember, however. Aurora is Queen of the Moors now. At the beginning of the movie, you get a flyover of the lands involved in the movie. Starting in the original palace from the first film in Ulstead, heading to the Moors and then into Phillip's kingdom that neighbors the Moors by a river.
Queen Ingrith has a troubled past and takes it out on the Moors. This is were Maleficent: Mistress of Evil gets really dark and into the unpleasant attributes of war. There were times that the acts of war Queen Ingrith were willing to stoop to became hard to watch. Perhaps even hard for little ones to watch at times as well. War is ugly, in all forms.
Maleficent's backstory is one that I have always wondered about, especially after the first film. They took such a deep look into her growing up as a young child in the Moors that I wanted to know more about why she was the only one of her kind. Maleficent finds herself in a massive cavernous nest with a whole collection of races of dark fey she didn't know about. Conall, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, shows her the different dark fey that used to live all over the world, but now live in the secluded area by the sea. It gave me Hidden Dragon vibes, especially because they were hiding out here from humans.
“Conall is a wise warrior who has led the fey into battle with humans before, but has now come to a point where he's looking at a different tack,” Ejiofor says. “He sees that this way of doing things is sort of finite and isn’t going to have any useful solution in many ways, so he is looking for an alternative.”
Not all of the dark fey see Conall's way though and want to fight the humans back to protect the fairies in all shapes and sizes. The time Maleficent spends in the land of the dark fey is brief. While we get an interesting look into her heritage, the audience is still left with questions about Maleficent. At one point, she has a flashback that you could easily miss if you were to blink too long. I'm not sure if some of the backstory was cut to make way for more action in the war, but I was sad to be left with these questions when I left the theater.
Just as we start to learn more, she feels a disturbance (in the Force) that brings her back to the Moors. After an aerial ballet of destruction, our happy couple finishes the battle with a beautiful wedding. There is no time for mourning; it's time to make it pink, no make it blue with the wedding dress!
Audiences will enjoy Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, if not for the Dark Fey and Angelina Jolie alone. The visual effects and costuming are glorious. I don't think anyone rocks a tall crown quite like Michelle Pfeiffer.
In Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” a sequel to the 2014 global box office hit, Maleficent and her goddaughter Aurora begin to question the complex family ties that bind them as they are pulled in different directions by impending nuptials, unexpected allies and dark new forces at play.