Monday, February 3, 2020

Movie with Abe: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
Directed by Joachim Rønning
Released October 18, 2019

Fantasy films, particularly those based on classic stories or fairy tales, tend to follow a certain general narrative. Things begin generally at peace, but a misperception of someone’s true nature leads to unfortunate consequences, likely resulting in an extended conflict that won’t be resolved until after certain irreversible casualties are incurred. True love may save the day, or some more platonic form of care and respect that allows an important individual’s mind to be changed so that they may ally themselves with the good guys. Predictability isn’t necessarily a damning factor, but a film requires some special spark to be worthwhile in its own right.

Aurora (Elle Fanning) rules the kingdom of the Moors while her mother Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) serves as its mostly unseen protector. When Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) of Ulstead proposes to Aurora, Maleficent is invited to join his parents for dinner, revealing notions of peace from his father, King John (Robert Lindsay), and hateful sentiments from his mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), whose treatment of Maleficent is far from respectful. When a curse befalls John, Maleficent is blamed, prompting a war between humans and the Dark Fae, one in which Maleficent and Aurora will need to decide where exactly they stand based on their intrinsic connection to the other species.

This film is a sequel to 2014’s “Maleficent,” an uneven adaptation of “Sleeping Beauty.” Like that film, it’s heavy on the effects and its mythical creatures, something that is visually appealing at times but ultimately feels more emphasized than the plot of the film itself. The story feels obvious from the start, an unneeded addition to lore that has been covered and explored many times over. There’s little about the character of Maleficent that makes her presence feel crucial, with Queen Ingrith taking more of the spotlight.

That’s due, of course, due to the casting of Pfeiffer, who always enjoys chewing scenery and rarely gets great roles these days. She’s a formidable match for Jolie, who, like in the first film, isn’t trying very hard. Fanning is good as always, though this too isn’t the most challenged she’s ever been. There is a formula to these kinds of films and a way to make them feel new and exciting, but that’s not what’s on display here. Many, like this reviewer, who wouldn’t have otherwise seen this movie are screening it exclusively to see its Oscar-nominated makeup and hairstyling, which, while decent, is far from reason enough to sit through two hours of all-too-familiar unfulfilling fantasy.


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