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MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL gets 5.5/10 Twice upon a time


Directed by Joachim Rønning
Starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chiwetel Ejiofor

5.5/10

Following on from 2014’s successful reinterpretation of the classic Disney villain, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil takes us back to the world of the princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) and her godmother Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), to show us that sometimes “happily ever after” needs a lot of hard work.

When Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) proposes to Aurora, a rift is formed between the young princess and her mercurial godmother. Maleficent’s hesitation grows when she meets Phillip’s mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), and after a heated exchange finds herself wounded and fleeing from the castle. As Aurora prepares and Maleficent unlocks some of the secrets of her past, a new threat arises that may threaten the peace of the fairy inhabitants of the Moors.

Well, to quote the old song – “second verse, same as the first”. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil feels like it does very little to expand the lore of the world or the story of the first, which is surprising as it both adds a whole new kingdom to the world, and answers questions about Maleficent’s past and the fey that she belongs to. But neither are developed in any significant manner, just thrown into the mix as new plot elements that the audience can accept and move on. In short, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil feels like a perfunctory sequel, that seeks to capitalise on the first film’s popularity by giving audiences more of the same.

That’s not all bad. There’s a lot of mileage that can be made from the idea of two powerful women forced into conflict, especially when it’s cast so well. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is easily at its best when Pfeifer and Jolie are verbally sparring against each other. Both actresses seem to revel in the barely civil conflict, trading vicious barbs. Sadly they really only get a few scenes together to engage in this, as the climax mainly prioritises special effects and action over dramatic confrontation. Both are good individually, basking in the roles they’re given, but it still feels like a missed opportunity.

The rest of the actors are probably not given enough to truly prove their worth in this overstuffed, yet under-baked script. The exception may be Fanning, who does everything required of her, but the archetypal princess Aurora (albeit modernised by action and agency) pales in comparison to the two evil queens vamping across the screen.

For good and ill, this is exactly what you would expect from a sequel to Maleficent, serviceable but not enchanting enough to be memorable.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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