Maleficent: Mistress of Evil - Review

Maleficent and her goddaughter Aurora begin to question the complex family ties that bind them as they are pulled in different directions by impending nuptials, unexpected allies, and dark new forces at play.

Director: Joachim Ronning (Kon-tiki, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell no Tales)
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer, Elle Fanning, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sam Riley, Ed Skrein and Harris Dickinson.

So five years ago (that hurts to type) I remember coming out of Maleficent with a resounding sense of apathy. You can check out what I mused here, but basically I found it to be a misstep for Disney. Jump cut to today and I’m back, smack bang in the apathy jacuzzi again. Soaking up all the wasted time and resources of a staggeringly lacklustre film.

Now don’t get me wrong I’m a Disney baby through and through. Give me that castle animation and stirring rendition of Wish Upon a Star intro any day of the week. But, even with my mouse tinted glasses on, I can’t condone what Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is up to.

Why all the negativity? It’s largely because the film takes a relatively simple plot, and through needless complication and tedious exposition turns it into a convoluted mess. The story lumbers along from scene to scene, rarely interesting itself with something as simple as cohesion. On occasions this kind of story can be fun to sit through, sadly Mistress of Evil is neither fun or endearing enough. It lacks wonder and is in desperate need of excitement. It’s a fairytale for goodness sake.

In terms of the performances, Angelina Jolie is once again the most interesting onscreen, but never gets to fully embrace the cartoonish vibe the film is crying out for. I found Michelle Pfeiffer surprisingly underwhelming in a role she should’ve knocked out of the park. Far from being her fault, the script and character arc is well below what an actor of her calibre deserves. Elle Fanning channels her hippy best, but she’s dialled up the vanilla way too high; for anyone who has seen Neon Demon knows she capable of way more. Three phenomenal women who could’ve brought the house down, but their talents are utterly squandered.

My gnawing issue is that the modern day Disney storytelling formulas are getting a touch played out. Too often our heroes are initially met by two people; one they think they can trust and one they know they definitely can’t. Over the course of the story they realise the “nice” one is bad and the “mean” one is actually good. We all learn lessons. The end. The age of the target audience shouldn’t preclude them from mixing it up now and then.

If you’re a fan of the original Maleficent, you’ll probably find plenty to like here. Whereas for me, it just didn’t rope me in.

Perhaps I’m developing an immunity to Disney stories. I need Disney to change out their new age cookie cutters, but then maybe their cookies always looked like this and I just never noticed.

At its best Mistress of Evil isn’t bold or weird enough. At its worst, it’s way too bland.

If you see the film and agree or disagree with my thoughts, feel free to drop a line below.

- Stu


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