Angelina Jolie returns in the follow up to the 2014 film that was a smash hit that started the Disney remake culture. This time around we dive deeper into the origins of her character and the race of Dark Fey themselves as the filmmakers deliver a Game Of Thrones inspired story adding Michelle Pfeiffer into the mix and while the story does falter, the performances from the cast, outstanding creature effects and the level of depth and exploration into the world outweigh the misgivings delivering a magical movie that feels a very old school Disney kind of film.
Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) has named Aurora (Elle Fanning) Queen of The Moors where they live ruling over the creatures of the forest. Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) shakes things up when he proposes to Aurora and invites her and Maleficent to his castle to meet the parents King John (Harris Dickinson) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). When things don’t go as planned Maleficent is chased out and discovers more dark fey in hiding in their place of origin. When an all out war between Ingrith and the dark fey erupts threatening the lives of everyone who lives in the Moors, Maleficent must choose a side to save the kingdom and her new dark fey family.
Angelina Jolie delivers another incredible performance. This time around she feels more settled into the role and why her make up may look slightly different with prosthetic and make up changes to be more digital than practical from the first film, the relationship and struggle with her and Elle Fanning is undeniably intense. The two bounce off each other and their off screen chemistry shines as they battle through arguments and reconciliations believably. Pfeiffer brings her A-game here with a Game Of Thrones iron clad performance that will have you convinced of how truly evil she is.
The movie goes into some very dark themes, in particular one scene were creatures are locked in a building with killing dust let loose to exterminate them while a guard joyfully plays the organ setting the dust loose. It starts out as entertaining and quickly turns macabre as this is not something you would expect from a Disney film aimed at families. The effect however is surprising and helps sell the tone of just how determined Queen Ingrith is to achieve her goal. While one could argue that making a movie about a villain who is the central focus of the film allows for dark exploration, putting these events and themes into a PG rated film it actually felt like that rating was being pushed to its limit.
Story wise it is a fairly by the numbers plot with classic tale of deception, struggle for power and control that seems very inspired by Game Of Thrones. Fortunately there is a fair amount of humour given to Maleficent which makes some of the eye-roll inducing one liners bearable. The first half hour of the film actually crawls forward and started to look like a fumbling mess before roaring into gear when Maleficent meets her dark fey brethren and it turns into more of a fantasy film than rom-com that is presented in the first act. While this is a large and quite garish CGI battle at the end (because of course there is!) the semi-horror elements like locking the creatures in a room to be killed and watching it slowly happen do even out the tropey parts of the story.
What did really work for me was this is the first Disney film this year with a hint of originality. While it is based (VERY loosely) on an old animated film, the story and direction is so far from that, it earns its place in Disney films. Some may not like the moral question that this film raises as well as the blatant political message it portrays, you cannot deny that the outstanding performances, beautiful CGI creatures and exploration of lore with the Dark Fey is worth the dive. Maleficent : Mistress Of Evil is a lot better than it has any right to be and has something for everyone.
Maleficent : Mistress Of Evil is playing in cinemas now.