MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL
While Mom expressed interest in seeing Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, she also expressed puzzlement at its subtitle. "Mistress of Evil? I thought she became good in the end. Did she go back to being evil?" Well, yes and no. As I look back on Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, I can somewhat admire the determined effort to give us more on the story of the dark sorceress being less villain and more misguided.
Admiration, however, is not the same as recommendation.
Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is not pleased that her adopted daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning) decides to marry Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson, replacing Brandon Thwaites). Aurora sees this as the joining of two kingdoms, but Maleficent is dubious. Nevertheless, she attempts to mix with her future in-laws, King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer).
The tension soon breaks out into total war, with Maleficent accused of cursing the King to sleep as she once cursed Aurora. Maleficent flees but is injured by Gerda (Jenn Murray), Her Majesty's henchwoman. She is rescued however by Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who is also a winged creature. He wishes to come out of the shadows and coexist with humans, while his second-in-command Borra (Ed Skrein) wants war, the Magneto to Conall's Professor X. Maleficent is now the Mystique of this group, wavering between them.
We learn that Queen Ingrith, with her own dark past against the fairy folk, has genocide on her mind, culminating with a wedding day massacre. Her war against the Moor folk costs many lives, but The Queen did not count on their resourcefulness, sacrifice and on Maleficent returning in all her power. Aided by Maleficent's right-hand crow-in-human-form Diaval (Sam Riley), Maleficent and Ingrith have a literal battle royale but as in all fairy tales, there is a happy ending.
Our Aurora and Philip united at last, Maleficent departs, but promises to return for the christening.
I remember giving Maleficent a positive review, but Mistress of Evil is met with a more jaundiced eye. It could be due to my having nodded off briefly during the film. It could be due to some almost uniformly bad acting. It could be due to a mangled script that seemed pasted together from other stories as to border on parody.
I put it down to a combination of all those and more.
Mistress of Evil did not seem to know what it wanted to be: allegory, fantasy, even comedy. It shifted from one to the other without a real sense of self. Take for example Geoff Zanelli's score. At times it seemed almost cute and whimsical, suggesting we should be laughing at certain points that did not lend themselves to straight-up comedy. Other times it wanted to be bold and action-packed, but ultimately it ended up being far too much.
I'm not going to bash the actors, with perhaps the exception of Pfeiffer who went out of her way to be over-the-top as the true 'Mistress of Evil'. It got to where Jolie ended up almost irrelevant as the title character. Fanning had nothing to do so perhaps her almost whimpering Aurora can be forgiven. Same with Dickinson, who looked bored knowing Prince Phillip was a nothing role, though to be fair he had his shirt perpetually opened to showcase his fit body.
Ejiofor, Skrein and Riley did what they could with the little material they had with their cliched roles. Out of the three I think Riley did best attempting to be a bit of comic relief, but he had a leg up given he'd been in Maleficent and was no stranger to the goings-on.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is entertaining enough I suppose if you ask little from it. It has a lot of pretty colors. It just does not have enough in it to be particularly good. Mind you, I don't think it's terrible or anywhere near the worst film I have seen this year.
It just doesn't have enough Maleficent or Evil to be a Mistress of Anything.