Film: Maleficient mistress of Evil
Building upon the previous theme of ‘Maleficent’, a live-action fantasy drama, the new ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ is more complex, dealing with obstacles of familial ties while offering new characters and background to its fairytale world. With Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, the horned creature from Disney’s 1959 animated classic ‘Sleeping Beauty’, the sequel has no connection to the classic anymore. The screenwriter Linda Woolverton, along with scriptwriters Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue, adds a feminine touch to the story portraying Angelina Jolie (Maleficent), Michelle Pfeiffer (Queen Ingrith) and Elle Fanning (Aurora) as three contrasting archetypes of femininity. The film is a melodramatic anti-war tale and is much more action-packed than the first instalment.
Five years after the events of the first film when Maleficent’s adopted daughter Aurora was declared as the Queen of the Moors, Aurora and Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) are planning for a wedding. They both are of the view that their engagement will unite both the human kingdom and magical forests of Moors that is under the protection of Aurora and Maleficent. But things take a wrong turn when the two attend an engagement celebration dinner at Prince Philip’s castle with King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith of Ulstead. Though Maleficent tries hard to plaster a smile and impress Philip’s parents, Queen Ingrith’s behaviour makes it all worse.
While the first film shows Maleficent’s former love King Stephan as the one who tries to destroy her, the sequel shows Ingrith as a genocidal hatemonger who wants to rule the Moors. From serving squab, which requires one winged creature to eat another, to furnishing the dinner table with utensils made of iron (fairies are allergic to iron); Ingrith’s ways of inflaming Maleficent proves her cruelty. The clash between the two results in an ugly spat between Aurora and Maleficent that might alter their relationship. Also when Aurora tries to warm up to her new in-laws, Maleficent discovers her heritage as a dark fae, a race of fairies who went into hiding after being hunted nearly to extinction. Further, it explains why Maleficent looks different from the rest of the Moors creatures but fails to clarify how she gets to the Moors in the first place.
Directed by Joachim Rønning, the sequel perfectly complements the first film and all the characters, the previous and the new ones, are terrific. With Angelina Jolie reprising her role as the winged dark fae, she proves once again that she is the key ingredient, making it all work with her powerful presence and performance. She balances her enraged outburst finely, even though it portrays how dangerous and uncontrollable her power can become. Her razor-sharp prosthetic cheekbones, elegant horns and velvety wings along with her husky voice add more depth to her character. Elle Fanning returns as Aurora, the demure heroine, who wants to set things right without realising that blind trust and rushing to judgements will only have consequences. Her character can be best put into words as ‘a mixture of youthful naivety and immature rashness’.
Michelle is a new addition to the film, which is wonderful, as she juggles between being the Queen and protector of her kingdom and the power-hungry person who desires to conquer the Moors without thinking about her own family and loyal ones. Prince Philip’s character, earlier enacted by Brenton Thwaites, is played by Harris Dickinson in the sequel. He has a heart of gold and very beautifully manages to fulfil his commitments to both Aurora and his kingdom. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Conall is another newcomer who plays a short but important role as one of the horned winged dark fae who rescues Maleficent from the enemies. Sam Riley too returns as Diaval who transforms from a raven into a human form along with the three comic fairies Thistlewit (Juno Temple), Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton) and Flittle (Lesley Manville).
The film shines throughout with its broad array of colours and terrific imaginative designs, giving viewers a premium visual experience along with Ellen Mirojnick’s stunning work as the costume designer. However, it lacks in presenting proper Maleficent-Aurora scenes together. There is also a scene where Maleficent keeps standing silently without contributing much while the two fae leaders Borra (Ed Skrein) and Collan debate over the merits of war and peace. The act is really weird, keeping in mind the powerful character she is playing.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is far more improved than the first instalment. It talks about issues of diversity, prejudice, discrimination, environmental protection and the nature of good and evil. While Maleficent cares first and foremost about women, it offers a warm celebration of male allyship in the form of Sam Riley’s character Diaval along with the humble and good-natured Prince Philip.
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfieffer, Harris Dickinson, Sam Riley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein, etc. Director: Joachim Rønning Writers: Linda Woolverton, Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue Running Time: 118 minutes