Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (AU - PG/UK - PG/US - PG)

In a word: Villainous


Elle Fanning stars as Aurora, Angelina Jolie as Maleficent and Sam Riley as Diaval in Disney's 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil'. PICTURE: Jaap Buitendijk © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Disney’s 2014 film Maleficent was one the studio’s earlier attempts to update a classic animation into live action. In an interesting spin on the tale, the villain Maleficent was reinvented as a misunderstood victim and ultimately the saviour of the tale. Five years later, Angelina Jolie returns as Maleficent in a sequel that stretches both the imagination and credibility.

In the years since the first film, Maleficent has made her sleeping beauty god-daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning) the Queen of the Moors. When Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) proposes to Aurora, the conflict between humans and faeries reignite and Maleficent is placed in the centre of a conspiracy that threatens to spark a war.

The challenge that Disney faces with this concept is in transforming a formerly perceived villain into the hero of the tale. Their solution is to create an even greater villain for Maleficent to defeat. In this case it is Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfieffer) who uses cunning, deception and manipulation to enact a brutal genocide on the Fey. This leads to scenes that are reminiscent of the death camps of World War II. Faeries are rounded up, locked in a building and gassed to death. Helpless prisoners are the subject of torturous experiments. Queen Ingrith sums up the tone of these plot points with the line, “This is no fairy tale".

The violence is matched by a faction of Dark Fey who seek to use Maleficent’s plight as a rallying cry for a war to destroy the humans. All this culminates in a massive battle with its fair share of death, destruction and sacrifice. In an odd mix of tones, all this tragedy rapidly transitions into a “fairy tale” happy ending which somewhat belittles the great sacrifices made in the battle.

There is a thinly veiled message about choosing peace instead of vengeance. But it is hard to receive the moral of the tale amidst all the overblown excuses for fighting and curious character decisions that leave more questions than are answered. The addition of periphery plot points such as the hidden race of Dark Fey and the Phoenix bloodline are poorly developed and confusing. They seem to be setting up another sequel where more will be explained.

Perhaps the real villain of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is Disney’s eagerness to produce sequels and live action repeats of their classics. The legacy of this fairy tale would be better served by letting her stay sleeping.