Disney's Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil muddled down by disjointed narrative
Mother is back. And now there are two of them! Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer face off in Disney's Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil, now in cinemas. It's entertaining. It's busy. It's over the top with CGI faeries, winged creatures and warfare.
As a sequel to the 2014 live-action, Mistress Of Evil sees Aurora (Elle Fanning) in her role as the young Queen of the Moors, governing over cute faeries and walking trees in the enchanted forest that comes alive on the IMAX screen. Her young beau, Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson replacing Brenton Thwaites from the first film), finally proposes. The protective godmother like Maleficent (Jolie with the iconic prosthetic cheekbone) naturally disapproves, but relents anyway when her baby girl wants the forest fam to meet with Phillip's parents at their grand castle. Enter King John (Robert Lindsay), the poised and jewel-laden Queen Ingrith (Pfeiffer), and also the queen's henchwoman.
The dinner goes predictably sour. For a moment, it's like Meet The Fockers -- the battle of the in-laws. Or I guess it's kind of like TV soap, too. The scheming mother-in-law who seeks to wreak havoc on the bride's family. The clueless dad. The monsters and the in-laws. But who is the true monster here? Who is the actual Mistress of Evil?
Maleficent is kinder (sort of) and more comical this time around, but still feared and loathed by the public at large. And when she is blamed for cursing King John, she flies off and gets into an emotional conflict upon meeting her fellow Dark Fey clans -- looking like models of all ethnics with wings and horns -- that have been hiding from human threat. Is it going to be war against the human? Is peace the option? For a moment, the film gets a little political, though that doesn't quite carry through.
Back at the castle, Aurora now sides with the scheming Ingrith who has a secret lab to experiment on faeries for a planned genocide. It's getting old to have a villain explain all her actions and motives to the protagonist before executing her but, that's what we'll have to settle for. Pfeiffer is cunning as Ingrith, but the role became quite a missed opportunity for such a talented actress. She's bad, all right. Evil. And she has a cool dressing room with a mannequin that can do a head twist. But her story could've gone so much further and deeper.
Eventually, all of that leads to the final battle sequence between human soldiers and Dark Fey, culminating in a long, CGI-filled war like it's another day in the MCU. Ultimately, it's a showdown between two powerful women, with Fanning's Aurora running around as a support and the men left on the sideline.
Humans seek to destroy, and winged creatures fly carelessly right into the queen's trap. We could draw an allegory to racism, or even how humans poach on Mother Nature.
There is also a conflict of identity for both Maleficent and Aurora, torn between their own origin, who they are, and what is expected of them. But these issues don't quite manifest fully with everything else that also goes on in this reimagined fairy tale.
The political undertone doesn't play out so well, but at least we managed to laugh and enjoy the film despite its muddled narratives.