When it comes to the unnecessary sequel department, few major studios are able to wring out every last drop of a story or character more than Disney. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is more of a standalone film rather than part two to 2014’s “Maleficent.” It’s kind of awful yet also kind of good, and this watchable fantasy action film met my expectations.
Formerly evil Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is being pulled in a different direction from goddaughter Aurora (Elle Fanning), as she is set to marry dreamboat Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson). The anger and rivalry between the Kingdom of Ulstead and the Moors has reached a boiling point, and the impending nuptials aren’t helping things. After spending time with Philip’s parents (Robert Lindsay and Michelle Pfeiffer), Aurora soon realizes she is better suited to a simpler life close to nature than one of formality in the royal castle.
The movie starts out as an absolute trainwreck in what I’d describe as a bad acid trip to Fantasyland. There are talking trees, plants that come to life, giggling fairies, and colorful whosits and whatsits chaotically flying everywhere. About five minutes in, I swear my eyeballs were melting. Luckily the story settles in a bit, but the film continues to be a little odd as it tries to be both dark and lighthearted, with spooky scenes interspersed with cute CGI creatures bouncing around to engage the kids.
Disney recently has been (rightfully) applauded for their modern take on the fairy tale (“Frozen,” “Moana”), so it’s surprising “Mistress of Evil” is filled with so many dated ideas (Aurora is expected to fall in love with a boy, marry, and have babies in order to make her life complete). Sometimes it’s a little too traditional with a handsome, charming prince and preparing for a dream wedding, but the story also has a modern day message of inclusivity and unification as a means to conquer fear, all while overcoming differences. Stronger together, and all that.
The movie is Disneyfied to the point it feels hokey. For instance: after a huge war with many deaths, the battlefield is quickly cleaned up for a happy wedding. And there’s lots of preaching about how everyone will be welcome in the newly “woke” kingdom.
The massive budget is spent on costumes and effects, but this mini-spectacle is by no means a Disney classic. It certainly isn’t one of the worst of the year, but I’d venture a guess that most will forget this movie exists by next summer.