Directed by: Joachim Rønning
Written by: Linda Woolverton, Noah Harpster, Micah Fitzerman-Blue
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sam Riley, Ed Skrein, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Michelle Pfeiffer
Released: October 17, 2019
Grade: C

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

As tends to be the case with fairy tales, Maleficent (2014) culminated with its heroic characters living happily ever after (or so we thought).  Princess Aurora (Fanning) was rid of a nasty curse and crowned as the new Queen.  Prince Philip fell in love and was able to win the affections of his dream woman.  Maleficent (Jolie) was reunited with her precious wings and embraced the light as opposed to the dark.

With it all culminating so harmoniously, what could the writers do to create drama for this sequel?  The answer – fake news!  As we’re told by the narrator during the opening few minutes, Maleficent has somehow become the villain again.  She earned redemption five years ago but because of misinformation and rumour mongering, humans are again scared of her presence and question her motives.  It’s a weak plot device.

If you think that’s suspect, wait until you meet the real baddie.  Queen Ingrith (Pfeiffer) is intent on destroying every creature across the kingdoms that isn’t human.  The problem is that she’s all bluster and no depth.  She’s a one-dimensional character who acts like a crazed super villain purely because she’s a racist.  Why couldn’t they create a more intriguing backstory?  It’s also surprising that no one picks up on her bizarre plans given how obvious they are to the audience.

In terms of the returning cast, all have reprised their roles with the exception of Australian Brenton Thwaites who was busy shooting his web television series, Titans.  British actor Harris Dickinson (Beach Rats) steps into the shoes of Prince Philip as his replacement.  Angelina Jolie remains the “pick of the bunch” as Maleficent but that’s largely because she’s the only character required to make tough choices and hence, the most interesting.

Director Robert Stromberg didn’t return this time around and so the reigns were handed to Norwegian director Joachim Rønning (Kon-Tiki).  His visual effects team have created some colourful locations and cute creatures but the big action finale in underwhelming.  It’s just a lot of chaotic fighting from a confusing mix of camera angles.  The lengthy epilogue was also unnecessary.

We’ve seen some strong family films this year such as Toy Story 4, Missing Link, Dora and the Lost City of Gold and Fighting with My Family.  These movies have offered a mix of laughs, emotion and creative storylines.  Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is likely to have its fans given their admiration for the original but when compared to the aforementioned films, it’s sorely lacking.