Angelina Jolie returns in the sequel of Disney’s most iconic and infamous villain, directed by Joachim Rønning.
Running from any kind of source material, the story is not bound by the fairy tales or the original 1950s animated film.
The story is set five years after the first film, with Aurora (Elle Fanning) serving as the noble and honest Queen of the magical Moors woodland, and Maleficent as its guardian.
The conflict begins shortly after Aurora accepts a proposal from Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson). His mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), is more caring than Maleficent. Ingrith does not trust Maleficent, her servant, Gerda, shoots Maleficent with an iron bullet.
The threat of Aurora leaving her to live with Phillip emerges and Maleficent lashes out. The already tenuous worlds of the humans and magical creatures spell the possibility of war.
The film introduces the concept of the Dark Fey, Maleficent’s long lost and almost extinct race, whom amongst, she is unique. We learn more about our leading lady’s legacy while causing further conflict within herself.
The film delivers on several levels but also has its shortcomings in others, mostly it’s the plot, while the performances and visual spectacles are its strength.
Indeed, it’s visually pleasing and one of the most fantastic of fantasy worlds on a modern screen. The special effects are wonderous and extravagant which, depending on your tastes, will either delight or distract you. There are times when there is too much going on with the special effects, but it helps to create a true feel of this magical world.
The attention to detail on the extravagant costumes is another a highlight, the makeup and effects for the Dark Fey are particularly impressive.
Aurora’s dresses provide the perfect look of a woodland princess, whilst Queen Ingrith looks regal in her pearls and more classically styled dress. Maleficent’s outfits were a personal favourite, as she serves as gothic-witch-queen fantasy, so she stood out against the lush greens of the woodlands and bright skies, making her impossible to miss.
The performances delivered by the three leading actresses help keep the film afloat. Fanning’s Aurora, while overly naïve at times, is charming and likeable and is a vast improvement over her animated 1950s counterpart. However, despite her more active role and attempts to make her more dynamic, it falls flat in places. Some of her actions feel irrelevant to the film’s progression – namely her investigations to discover who’s pulling the strings, which we already know.
Pfeiffer’s performance as the authoritative and strong-willed Queen is worthy of praise, as she perfectly executes the coldness needed to make her a plausible villain. She is a much better adversary for Maleficent than King Steffan. Ingrith is calculating and vindictive to Maleficent’s anguished character.
Ingrith’s husband, King John (Robert Lindsay) is very amicable and provides some of the films more humorous moments.
Once again, Jolie’s portrayal of Maleficent is magnificent, as she has the power to hold your attention with a look alone. She is not the most talkative character but her speech always alludes to something underlying in her words. Her expressions are just as powerful in making the audience wonder how she will react to situations.
There are several sweet and funny moments between Maleficent and her faithful servant Diaval (Sam Riley), who attempts to make Maleficent less socially awkward.
My only issue here is that we do not see enough of Maleficent, too much time was devoted to Phillip and Aurora’s relationship struggle and a fantasy subplot.
The plot felt disjointed, too busy and predictable. Too many plotlines led to unnecessary scenes and took away from the main plot. The romantic potential between Maleficent and Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and even possibility of a love triangle with Borra (Ed Skrein) could have been more easily interwoven into the story without detracting too much from the main events.
Another issue is, despite the film’s title, Maleficent never really feels like the ‘Mistress of Evil’. We do see some incredible displays of her power, but she is never allowed to delve into a truly darker aspect of her personality. Her violence against humans is too justified and we are always given a sense of hope for her. So perhaps, the title reflects how she is seen by humans.
However, the film also presents a heart-warming theme of the bond between mother and daughter, following on from other recent Disney films such as Brave, Frozen and Moana. The bonds between female family members are explored more as the core relationship, rather than a romantic one. Despite their conflict, Maleficent and Aurora still retain a love for one another and go to great lengths to try and save each other.
Through the conflict between humans and Dark Fey, the film tries to teach the moral of difference and fear of those who are – a concept still all too familiar. This moral could have been explored further.
Overall, the film is an enjoyable journey. It certainly has its enchanting qualities amongst the multiple plotlines and is very visually pleasing, but it leaves you feeling unsatisfied and wanting more, especially of Maleficent.
Nevertheless, though it’s not a cinematic masterpiece, and probably not a film for the more astute and cinematic critic, I enjoyed the film very much and would happily watch it again. The film is more for Disney and fantasy lovers.
For Disney fans, it will be sure to delight you in some ways and is a fun film to watch. It is certainly dazzling, and the characters and the portrayal of Maleficent was nothing short of magnificent.