When Disney wants to have fun, color outside of the lines, and not worry about getting every detail just right, it can do great things. Such was the case with Maleficent and, now, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil — spins on the original tale of Sleeping Beauty, focusing on the titular sorceress and her relationship with goddaughter Aurora.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil picks up after the events of the first live-action adaptation in 2014. Aurora (Elle Fanning) is Queen of the Moors, following Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), and is trying her best to rule over the land, fairies, and woodland creatures. The neighboring human kingdom poses a threat to Aurora’s kingdom. However, Aurora’s love for Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson), and his love for her, will unite the two lands and bring peace at last between human and fairy.
It becomes clear that not everybody wants peace. While King John (Robert Linsday) welcomes the announced engagement between Aurora and Phillip, as he rejects warfare and violence, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) isn’t convinced. She has plans of her own, and they are the focus of this story. These plans result in tragedy for the King, the two kingdoms, and catapults Ingrith into a feud with the fierce Maleficent.
Mistress of Evil makes the story of Maleficent, adapted for our modern times, work. It’s a perfectly fine sequel that is beautiful to look at, engaging, and fun. It’s a sequel that we didn’t really know we needed or wanted, and there’s no reason to be upset that we now have it. What makes Mistress of Evil work is that it isn’t a rehashing of a previous Disney property, such as The Lion King. It’s evident that the cast and crew enjoyed making this movie and doing their own thing in bringing it to life.
This film also presents some harrowing themes. For adults in the audience, there are clear political and social messages at play. For the kids, it’s your traditional game of good vs. evil, except that what we consider good or evil is much more complicated, as we saw with the first Maleficent.
Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer’s rivalry in the movie make the whole affair even more fun. I wish we could have seen them face-off even more than they did. They bring their talent to the film, making it even more memorable.
Harris Dickinson was an interesting casting choice, too, as he replaced Brenton Thwaites in the Prince Phillip role. Thwaites, quite frankly, didn’t bring a lot to the character and Dickinson proved he was a better fit. Unfortunately, the writing and progression of the story didn’t allow him to shine as his screen time was limited throughout the film. Harris Dickinson is a relative newcomer to acting, coming onto the scene about just a few years ago. He has since starred in Beach Rats, Postcards from London, and the FX limited series Trust. He will soon be leading in the Kingsman prequel, The King’s Man.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is entertainment for the whole family, and any Disney enthusiast, and offers a welcome respite in its fantasy world. This is, simply, one of those stories that are meant to be enjoyed and not overly analyzed, which is perfectly fine with me.