MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL, US, 2019. Starring Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer, Elle Fanning, Harris Dickinson, Sam Riley,Chiwitel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein, Robert Lindsay, David Gyasi, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton. Directed by Joachim Honning. 118 minutes. Rated PG (Mild fantasy theme and violence. Some scenes may scare young children).
The emphasis on the original, Maleficent, was on the wicked queen herself, magnificently embodied by Angelina Jolie. This was a remake of Sleeping Beauty, Elle Fanning as the little girl, object of the Queen’s malicious jealousy, rescued and growing up in the kingdom with Maleficent becoming her foster mother.
Maleficent, if she were in the mood, could well sue the filmmakers, especially those responsible for the subtitle for this sequel, Mistress of Evil. Maleficent is definitely not just of evil – the title is quite defamatory. Rather, Michelle Pfeiffer is Queen Ingreth, ice cold stare with inner malevolence, could also sue. She is definitely the mistress of evil.
Aurora is no longer a sleeping beauty but is intent on bringing peace between humans and pixies and fairy worlds, intent on marrying Prince Philip and bringing everyone together. Maleficent disapproves of the marriage, pessimistic about its outcome. Queen ingreth is even more deadly set against the marriage. She resents peace, resents the fairy world, despises her husband and puts him under a curse, makes demands of her son, Philip, and intends to go to war.
Elle Fanning is lovely as ever as Aurora but Harrison Dickinson is rather pro-faced as Philip.
Much of the film is war action, an extraordinary range of special effects, familiar human soldiers in their armour, all kinds of fairies and pixies, all taking wing, including Maleficent and a shape-changing crow (Sam Riley), swooping in attack, swooping to evade the fireballs fired at them.
Trapped by the Queen, Aurora does not need a prince’s kiss to go into action but shows herself a sturdy heroine. Ultimately, of course, the confrontation is between the two women and – no spoiler – Maleficent, despite seeming to die, will be triumphant.
One of the problems for some audiences is the presence of Angelina Jolie, not in the fact that she is Maleficent, but that for most of the time she just has to stand there, prominent cheekbones, dressed in black, the horns, not saying particularly much, looking like an icon rather than a personality. Which contrasts, profoundly, with the malice of Michelle Pfeiffer.
For many audiences, this will be welcome magic and fairytale. For others, it won’t have the magic and charm of the original.
Disney Released October 24th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.