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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil ••

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Harris Dickinson
Director: Michael Dowse
Screenplay: Tripper Clancy
Adventure/Family/Fantasy, Rated: PG
Running Time: 118 minutes
Release Date: October 18, 2019




Scott, are you ready for the most beautiful, evil woman in the world?

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, as a shallow male I’ll usually overlook evil if there is beauty, but this film was so bad that I have to make an exception here. Let’s recap.

We’re introduced to Aurora (Elle Fanning), the princess to the fairy kingdom. She’s in love with Prince Charming (Harris Dickinson) who has asked her to marry him. She accepts. Her mother, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), is informed and she is not happy. Charming’s parents invite Aurora and Maleficent to the humankind’s castle. But Maleficent is dubious, the humans and fae folk have not exactly been friends. But for Aurora’s sake, she agrees and the two go to dinner.

The dinner ends up being a disaster, and not because the poultry wasn’t seasoned properly. Barbs and insults are exchanged, sending Maleficent into a terrible rage. Plates and flatware go flying, and worse, the King (Robert Lindsay) is rendered unconscious, presumably under Maleficent’s wicked spell. But Prince Charming’s mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) declares that the wedding will go on, and she insists on inviting everyone in the fairy kingdom to the regal ceremony.

Scott, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a confusing mish-mash of predictable tropes. The most confusing element of the film is just who is the intended audience. The story might be appropriate for children, but the action is intense – as if to appease adults. And while there’s no real bloodshed, there is death-a-plenty. Little creatures and big creatures alike disappear in agonizing red dust.

It’s also unclear who the real hero of the story is. The story divides itself equally between Aurora’s struggle to be accepted by Charming’s mother, and Maleficent’s struggle to be true to herself and her daughter’s love. For some reason, Maleficent is actually a descendant of a winged race who has lived in seclusion on a scary island. And, apparently, she is directly descended from the queen of the winged folk – the Phoenix. And, when Maleficent dies saving her daughter, she turns to ash. And when Aurora’s tears touch the ash, Maleficent magically turns into the Phoenix – and kills all the bad folk.

I suppose fantasy stories don’t need to apply simple logic to be entertaining. But the confluence of events in this story don’t resemble a Disney-quality tale. Instead, it’s more like the stream of consciousness imaginings of a group of 8-year-old girls dreaming up their idea of a great fairy tale. Too bad the film is too scary for such children.

Greg, I totally agree. I truly enjoyed the first Maleficent and loved her complete, round-trip journey of redemption. Here we get the same redemptive journey but without any of the enchantment or surprises. This follow-up to Maleficent suffers from one of the most banal and trite storylines in the history of movies. The future in-laws don’t get along and so there will be fighting. Yawn.

Moreover, the characters in this film are about as one-dimensional as you can get. Let’s face it — all these characters are basically caricatures of previous one-dimensional Disney characters. So what do you get when you get a one-dimensional representation of one-dimension? I think you get a tenth of a dimension, or something multiplicative in the wrong direction.

Let me express one more disappointment. Just like in the first movie, Maleficent transforms from good to bad and then back to good again. That was super cool then but it smacks of repetition now. Even worse is the way that Maleficent transforms into her final, positive, redemptive self. After self-sacrificially saving Aurora’s life,  Maleficent blossoms into a huge, fiery Phoenix. That should have ended the movie, but no, the Phoenix appears to have been killed, but in a Fatal Attraction-like way, the Phoenix re-rises (is that a word?) and the re-redemption (is that a word?) is re-completed (that is NOT a word).  Ughh. Let’s hope there is no Maleficent 3.

Maleficent: Misty risty subtitle is a confusing mess of a movie with no real direction and no clear audience. I loved seeing Angelina Jolie in this role. Looking back on her career, it’s no wonder that she’s emerged as such a powerful actor and presence in Hollywood. As much as I enjoyed her performance, I can only muster 2 out of 5 Reels for this film.

Maleficent starts out as cranky and untrusting. Evolves into angry and untrusting. Becomes the queen of the winged folk. Dies, and is resurrected. And ends up a smiling trusting happy soul. I guess this is a sort of redeemed hero-villain but I’m not sure. 2 out of 5 Heroes.

And the message that you should trust others until they stab you in the back and try to commit genocide, is pretty weak. And that even if you die, are resurrected through the love of your lost tribe, then die again, and are resurrected through the love of a child so you can potentially commit genocide, but decide not to kill everyone in the end, is confusing at best. 1 Message Point out of 5.

Movie: Heroes: Message:

Alas, as much as I want to, I cannot disagree with you, Gregger. This rendition of Maleficent is anemic and uninspired. There’s just no punch nor magic nor delight here, and this despite some of the most astounding visual CGI effects we’ve ever seen. Without a good story, or good characters, there is no magic to be found. I give this film 2 Reels out of 5.

The hero’s journey is fully present here, no doubt. But it’s rather hard to relate to Maleficent when all she had to do is endure one awkward dinner with the in-laws, which is something many of us do without any heroic fanfare. It’s so sad to see a great regal dinner go waste, just as it’s sad to see two hours of my life go to waste in the theater. I can only must 2 Hero points out of 5, and that’s generous.

You’re right, Greg, there is no discernible message worth reporting here. Maybe we’re supposed to learn to accept other who are different from us, or to not hold grudges. I don’t know. 1 Message point is about right here.

Movie: Heroes: Message:

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