Malef­i­cent se­quel un­der­mines im­por­tant themes with campi­ness

The Peterborough Examiner - - ARTS & LIFE - KATIE WALSH

It seems that An­gelina Jolie’s cur­rent pet cause is re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing the image of no­to­ri­ous “Sleep­ing Beauty” vil­lain and evil fairy Malef­i­cent. The 2014 live-ac­tion stand­alone film po­si­tioned the curse-bear­ing mis­tress of evil as a mis­un­der­stood and abused guardian of the nat­u­ral world and all the magic it con­tains. There’s cer­tainly some­thing in­ter­est­ing and lovely about find­ing em­pa­thy and com­pas­sion for this oth­er­wise ma­ligned crea­ture. And while “Malef­i­cent” wasn’t ex­actly a great movie, Jolie was cer­tainly fun to watch.

In the fol­lowup, “Malef­i­cent: Mis­tress of Evil,” things de­volve into kooky as this wild, sur­real and wacky es­ca­la­tion spins out of con­trol and our lead­ing lady fades to the back­ground. In the se­quel, penned by Micah Fitzer­man-Blue, Noah Harp­ster and orig­i­nal screen­writer Linda Woolver­ton, Malef­i­cent is forced out of the Moors and into war as her god­daugh­ter, Aurora (Elle Fan­ning), plans to marry Prince Philip (Har­ris Dick­in­son), merg­ing the fairy and hu­man king­doms. Of course there’s only one real prob­lem: her fu­ture mother-in­law. Typ­i­cal.

Michelle Pfeif­fer plays the icy Queen Ingrith, whose slinky side-eye line de­liv­ery screams that she’s def­i­nitely up to some­thing. It’s fun watch­ing Pfeif­fer and Jolie out-diva each other over a spiky fam­ily din­ner, but for the most part, the film keeps them apart. While Ingrith schemes and plots in her cas­tle, Malef­i­cent gets to know her roots with a trip to the land of the “dark fae,” where she fi­nally en­coun­ters her peo­ple and learns her true power.

What worked about the first “Malef­i­cent” was Jolie her­self, try­ing on some­thing softer, even funny, her face, en­hanced with pros­thet­ics, half of the vis­ual spec­ta­cle. But “Mis­tress of Evil” crowds Jolie. Malef­i­cent fades to the back­ground, eclipsed by full-camp Pfeif­fer as the evil, Trumpian dic­ta­tor queen, an un­holy com­bi­na­tion of Slo­bo­dan Milo­se­vic and Imelda Mar­cos. Equally dis­tract­ing are the dark fae, led by an out­landish Ed Skrein in full winged, ab-re­veal­ing In­dige­nous drag. The mind reels at the thought that Jolie is the least in­ter­est­ing per­son on screen.

Much of the ap­peal of “Malef­i­cent” and “Malef­i­cent: Mis­tress of Evil” is the vis­ual spec­ta­cle, where hu­mans min­gle with com­puter-gen­er­ated an­i­mals and fairies in a fan­tas­ti­cal land­scape. But di­rec­tor Joachim Ron­ning, who also di­rected “Kon-Tiki” and “Pi­rates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” badly bun­gles

this. The shots are con­found­ing and messy, and the whole thing is too quickly edited. Far too many scenes take place un­der the cloak of dark­ness, so dark you can barely tell who is who.

Ron­ning some­what saves it with a vis­ually in­ven­tive bat­tle scene, punc­tu­ated with puffs of red smoke, but this is where the script veers off the rails. Too much hap­pens, all the time, with a great many dif­fer­ent tones bat­tling on the screen. It’s a lit­tle bit “A Princess Bride,” and a lotta bit “Fern Gully,” with heavy metaphors for vi­o­lent colo­nial­iza­tion and the geno­cide of na­tive peo­ple un­der a greedy, fas­cist gov­ern­ment laced through­out. The mes­sages that un­der­gird “Malef­i­cent: Mis­tress of Evil” are im­por­tant ones. If only they didn’t come wrapped in this goofy, chaotic pack­age.


An­gelina Jolie re­turns as the vil­lain of Sleep­ing Beauty in “Malef­i­cent: Mis­tress of Evil.”


Har­ris Dick­in­son, Elle Fan­ning, Robert Lind­say and Michelle Pfeif­fer in “Malef­i­cent: Mis­tress of Evil.”

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