This Disney sequel flies into the wall.
Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” will always be one of the most beautifully drawn and magical animated features. One of the characters who helped make it so iconic was Maleficent, the evil witch, who casts a spell on Princess Aurora that will put her in a deep sleep.
The live-action spin-off “Maleficent” made her a better person by allowing her to be Aurora’s godmother and the one who arranges it so that true love’s kiss will break the spell. Angelina Jolie was fine in that role with her sly wit and unique personality.
But now, we have the sequel, “Mistress of Evil,” which wastes most of the fine talents here, and relies on a series of recycled elements we’ve seen portrayed better in other movies. It basically assumes that just because the animated version had a sense of humor hidden inside the romance and adventure, then the same should apply for the real world. In this case, it doesn’t.
The movie starts off with a sad splice of “Frozen” and “Meet the Parents,” as Aurora (Elle Fanning), Queen of the Moors, is set to marry Prince Phillip (now played by Harris Dickinson), which would unite their kingdoms. The rip-offs kick in when Maleficent says “No” to the marriage, and Philip’s parents meet her for the first time. While the King (Robert Lindsay) is enthusiastic about their marriage, while the Queen (Michelle Pfeiffer) is planning to eradicate all fairies from existence, including Maleficent.
Then we go into full “Avatar” and “How to Train Your Dragon” mode as Maleficent wakes up in a secret utopia chocked full of her kind in hiding. Chiwetel Ejiofor is the one who saved her life, and believes humans and fairies can cooperate, while Ed Skrein is the one who thinks they should go to war with humans. Maleficent becomes negative as well.
And the rest of the movie shows Aurora moping about, while preparing to walk down the aisle. She eventually finds out about the Queen’s wicked schemes.
This time, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” was directed by Joachim Ronning, who made the remarkable “Kon-Tiki” and the mediocre “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” Here, along with screenplay writers Linda Woolverton (“Beauty and the Beast”), Noah Harpster, and Micah Fitzerman-Blue, he has made a sequel that has nowhere to go.
I liked Pfeiffer during the second act because of her character’s devious intentions, and Ejiofor is somewhat charming as the good winged fairy. The problems with them are she starts to get irritating and her comeuppance is degrading, while the other character is underwritten. Their characters deserve better than what they’re provided.
Jolie lacks her flexibility from the original, while Fanning becomes more formulaic. I also loathed the CGI fairies (Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville) with their annoying high-pitched voices and would-be comedy in both movies. And worst of all, Sam Riley (as the human form of the crow Diaval) is given an awkward attitude.
As I said in my review of the “Lion King” remake, ” It just goes to show that in these cases, animation is more powerful than live-action.” That also applies towards “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.”