Maleficent was magnificent. Unfortunately, the sequel is not. Maleficent took the villain of a Disney animated classic and made her sympathetic and powerful, as played by Angelina Jolie. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, is not so compelling. It ultimately had a good message but it’s a muddled way to get there.
Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent is back to square one
Despite her redemption in the first movie, Maleficent: Origin of Evil begins with Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) still feared in the kingdom of the Moors. A narrator tells us the story spread and everyone forgot the part where Maleficent broke the curse with love. Isn’t that always the way? People retell a story and leave out the details that don’t suit their narrative.
Alstead Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) proposes to Aurora (Elle Fanning), and his parents King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) want to have Aurora’s godmother over for dinner. It’s the most passive-aggressive dinner since Greg Focker met his fiance’s parents. Ingrid provokes Maleficent to lash out and scare the kingdom, and frames her for cursing the king.
There is merit to the idea that this is what Maleficent will go through all her life. Even if she learns to love and finds a family who accepts her, there will always be someone trying to use fear and evil against her. Just look at the way persecuted minorities are demonized throughout history. They make progress, but it never gets easier.
Angelina Jolie seems committed to amplifying the metaphorical voice of persecuted cultures. As valid as that message is, the specifics of the union between the Moors and Allstead and Alsteadians poaching fairies from the Moor forest and Ingrid’s conspiracy is already too convoluted, and there’s still more.
Exposition replaces Angelina Jolie
Ingrid’s ultimate plan was to kill Maleficent but that would be a very short movie. So Maleficent survives and discovers a fairy world underground where her kind has survived. Maleficent hears a lot of exposition from Borra (Ed Skrein) and Connal (Chiwetel Ejiofor) about the lineage of the fairies and the debate about whether to go to war with humans.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot more exposition on Ingrith’s side as her sorcerer/chemist Lickspittle (Warwick Davis) figures out how to devise a chemical compound that kills any magical entity from Moor. Without the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, the plot becomes too convoluted and Angelina Jolie is not even in the movie for a very large chunk while all of this works itself out.
Finally, you see where ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ is going
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil ends in a stunning castle battle. It’s also brutal. A lot of fairies die. It’s war, man. It would have been great if they could have come up with a plot that wasn’t two women fighting each other. You can make them look badass and magical, but it’s still the cliche of catty women can’t get along, and over a wedding too.
Ultimately, the message is positive. Leaders spread stories with an agenda, so you should always question the narrative so the leaders won’t be able to manipulate you. That’s a pretty simple theme though. Rumors bad, truth good. It need not have taken 90 minutes of exposition to lead to that final battle and resolution.