Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil - Review

Five years after Maleficent became a bona fide hit at the box office, along with mixed reception from critics, the sequel is finally hitting theaters. Of all the Disney live-action remakes, Maleficent took the most risks, challenged the shortcomings of the original, and tried something relatively new with an established property, leaving the sequel plenty of room to grow. However, just having a fascinating central figure hardly makes a great sequel, and unfortunately, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil doesn’t recognize this simple fact.

A formidable queen (Michelle Pfeiffer) causes a rift between Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning). Together, they must face new allies and enemies in a bid to protect the magical lands which they share.

The biggest draw on paper, winds up being the biggest draw in reality as well: Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer. Jolie clearly enjoys this role and it suits her like a glove, in every devious and powerful way you can imagine. Arguably, the same could be said for Pfeiffer, whose antagonistic opposition to Maleficent comes through in some extremely entertaining interactions between the two actresses, however brief they may be.

Outside of the two solid, maybe even good, performances, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is entirely a mixed bag. The production design and the makeup work is actually pretty spectacular, but they both fit into a film with a basic set-up, layout, and ending. There is a compelling character leading the narrative, one that has entirely no idea what to do with character outside of that. While the film is full of potentially good ideas, none of them seem to pan out in any way.

It doesn’t help that the two actresses previously mentioned are the only ones to get any material to work with. The rest of the supporting cast is utterly wasted, including the extremely talented Chiwetel Ejiofor. Utterly wasting actors is one thing, but it stems from a bigger problem: having characters act out of character for the story to even function. And even then, it’s entirely predictable from start to finish, with very little in the way of surprises.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil offers an expansion of the world introduced five years ago and two solid performances from Jolie and Pfeiffer. Outside of that, it’s a woefully average production that really had no concept of how to utilize some interesting characters. It visually pleasing though ultimately hollow, but if you liked the first film, the odds are high that you’ll enjoy this one as well.

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