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Maleficent becomes the Mistress of Mediocrity as Disney’s sequel magic wears thin
Before we begin, I just wanna say that I LOVE Sleeping Beauty. Like, to the point that I know it word for word and it’s my favourite Disney movie of all time. There’s just something about the art style, the dynamic villain and the whimsical setting that resonates with me. So, when I saw the original Maleficent back in 2014, I was horrendously disappointed. Why did they do my horned villainess dirty like that?! With that said, my review of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is probably going to be a little bit skewed – you’ve been warned… *Just a heads up, there’s gonna be spoilers ahead* I tried going into this movie with an open mind. Honestly, I really did. When the film opens to a dark, quaint little village by the water, showing a magical forest lit up by hundreds of glowing lights, I sat there with bated breath. When stray hunters capture a poor little mushroom man and Maleficent SWOOPS in, only giving us a glimpse of her iconic horns as she kills them, using a flash of magic and holding them up in vines, I was cautiously optimistic. Maybe this film wouldn’t be so bad after all? Maybe – dare I say it – this film was actually going to be good? Unfortunately, yet perhaps predictably, I was terribly wrong. While the film opens strong, it just gets gradually worse and worse as the seconds tick by. For starters, the title character – ya know, the badass bitch Maleficent – played by the flawless Angelina Jolie – doesn’t really do that much. Like, at all. Apart from losing her shit at a dinner party, being gaslighted by the OTHER evil queen – where she threatens her cat and goes berserk with her rad green power – she spends the rest of the movie quoting witty quips and throwing bitchy looks. As much as I appreciate that – and believe me, I really do – it would be nice for the protagonist to DO something. ANYTHING. Please, I’m begging you. There’s literally a segment in the middle of the film where she DOESN’T SPEAK for god knows how long. Yes, Angelina looks fly with her hair down, pouting beneath those sick horns, but c’mon, where’s the badass we all know is hiding in there? Jolie does what she can with a mediocre script, shining in every scene, almost too good for the film she’s found herself in. I can’t say I blame her for cashing in on that sweet, sweet paycheck, though. She plays the nuances of the role well, too, looking vulnerable to an almost tangible degree. And, to the special effects team’s credit, they wrap her wings around her when she’s feeling alone, a nice little touch that reminds us that she’s not the villain of this story. (Nah, that title goes solely to the script writers). I also couldn’t help but be disappointed that there wasn’t a bitch off between Jolie and Pfeiffer. I mean, sure, we had the iconic dinner table scene – but that was it. C’mon, these women both have the acting chops to create an unforgettable catty encounter – and the filmmakers let it go to waste. Sigh. Aside from my personal issues with the movie, there’s also a slew of things that simply don’t make sense. When the King wakes up from his curse (broken, by the way, by Maleficent destroying the spinning wheel – if that’s the case, why didn’t M just do that in the original movie?), and is totally chill with the fact that his wife is now a goat. Cool. At the end of the film, Aurora declares that she wants a wedding. Like, right now. That’s nice and all, but you’re literally standing on a battlefield full of your dead comrades. A bit tasteless, no? Oh, and by the way, Aurora – seeing as nobody else bothered to tell you – your auntie is now a plant. Long story. Speaking of the fairies – they were AWFUL. To the point where they may as well have been excluded from the entire movie. Just give me a grumpy old Merryweather any day of the week, thanks. While the movie did try to expand on its lore – a nice effort, although half-baked – the messages we got from the dark fae were… confusing. For starters, the dark fae that rescues Maleficent – Borra – just so happens to be zooming along in her neck of the woods when she’s about to enter a watery grave. That’s convenient. They then whisk her off to an island where they’ve been sat, biding their time to wage war against the humans – using Maleficent as their secret weapon. Oh – by the way – for some reason Maleficent is the last descendent of the phoenix – the origin of their species. How they know this? It’s a mystery. Why Maleficent is the last one remaining? Again, who knows. Alrighty then… It’s great that they took the plunge to go further into her back story, and build up some general lore in the magical world they’ve created, but it’s just so very empty and lacking in any substance when you apply any critical thought to it for more than two seconds. “But it’s just a kid’s movie!” you might be crying at your screen. I mean, you have a point. It’s filled with childish humour, based on a Disney classic, with magic mushroom men. Then again, it also has a Nazi-inspired gas chamber where the fae are being brutally murdered in front of our very eyes – so it’s hard to really fit the movie into any particular category. Speaking of – there’s also the pixie Lickspittle, played by Warwick Davis. He’s been experimenting on the fae, using their powers against them in the form of a hideous murder weapon. That is, until Aurora stumbles into the Evil Queen’s lair and reminds him he’s a fairy. ‘Neat,’ he shrugs, taking this whole time to realise that and switching sides, before dancing merrily at her wedding. Uh, dude, you’re the one who caused most of this death! In Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’s defence, I was never bored throughout the 2-hour sitting. Probably because it was such a clusterfuck of random ideas stitched together to make a half-baked attempt at a movie that it was delighting to see play out before my very eyes, wondering which sort of convenient plot device or poor character choice was going to happen next. The set design, music, and, for the most part, CGI was pretty good, too. And, of course, Angelina Jolie is pretty much perfect – but I’d watch a movie of her saying “beastie” on repeat for two hours, so that doesn’t say much. To its credit, the movie does try to do something different – rather than hitting each story note beat for beat ala Lion King – it mixes up its source material, favouring new territory as opposed to going for an easy cash grab by showing us our beloved animated classics in live motion. But WHY did they have to do it with my favourite Disney movie and arguably my favourite villain of all time, god damn it?! I’d happily pay a cinema ticket to watch a retread of Sleeping Beauty, frame for frame, in its live action glory. Instead, I paid the admission price to watch Maleficent…. not really do that much for two hours. Honestly, it seems as if the spell of Disney’s remake/sequel magic has finally worn off. For more movie reviews, check out what I thought of ‘Joker’ (I’m a lot more positive, promise). Or, for more on Disney, check out my list of Disney’s most underrated characters. Related