Disney has found a great deal of success with its live action remakes, for better or worse, so it was inevitable that the studio would churn out sequels to some of its more popular adaptations. While this approach didn’t translate to dollars with “Alice Through the Looking Glass” Disney was hoping for something better with “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”, the follow up to the 2014 hit that provided a different take on the legendary villain of “Sleeping Beauty”. This sequel follows Maleficent, played again by Angelina Jolie, as she comes into conflict with Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), the mother of Queen Aurora’s (Elle Fanning) soon to be husband Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson). The film also explores Maleficent’s origins by showcasing other Dark Fairies like herself in a war for the fate of two worlds. So how well does this dark fantasy sequel justify its own existence? Let’s examine in my review of “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”.
While I have had mixed feelings about Disney’s live action remakes the best ones for me tend to be those that do something new with the concept and “Maleficent” was one of those films. It took the idea of one of Disney’s most popular villains and put a new spin on her story similar to what “Wicked” did for the Wicked Witch of the West by exploring her humanity and how she was more a misunderstood anithero than an actual villain. It was a fun fantasy film that offered some new insight into an intriguing character. The sequel, not so much. While “Mistress of Evil” does attempt to build on Maleficent’s backstory it doesn’t do so in any interesting or unique way. Angeline Jolie is still very good as the titular Dark Fairy (or Dark Fey as they call her species in the movie) but a lot of her personality is nothing more than carried over sarcasm and a dark stare from the previous movie. We don’t really learn anything new about who Maleficent is as a person although we do get to learn more about her origin and what makes her special in her species. Even then though the way this movie tries to build on Maleficent’s backstory is a mishmash of borrowed clichés from countless other fantasy films. While the previous movie may have felt derivative of the “Wicked” formula it at least felt like it was trying to do something interesting. This movie feels like it’s just trying to get by.
To use a single word, “Mistress of Evil” feels uninspired. While there are some new elements thrown in to add some spice to Maleficent’s story most of what we’re offered is nothing unique when compared to pretty much any other entry in the fantasy genre. While many of the performances are committed and fun helping elevate the experience to watchable levels, there was always this sense of “I’ve seen this before”. “Mistress of Evil” is sadly so predictable that you can see everything, even its biggest twists, coming from a mile away. This sequel doesn’t even capture what made the original film fun lacking anywhere near as much heart or creativity. The entire film just feels like it was written as the filmmakers went along and that they used only the first, and safest, ideas to force a followup onto the big screen. Even the special effects feel like a downgrade from the first movie which was already littered with obvious CGI. The whole experience feels like a downgrade which is something a sequel should never be.
Like I said though this isn’t exactly a boring movie, it’s just terribly predictable and cookie cutter for a genre that demand more imagination. I already noted how the performances of the cast help lift the film to watchable status, especially the more matured take on Aurora by Elle Fanning and the fun villainous performance by the always stunning Michelle Pfeiffer. Sadly, the material isn’t really worth their commitment. Even with that said I can’t deny I did have fun watching this film as predictable as it tends to be. It was a quick 1.75 hours of fantasy nonsense that served as a perfectly fine source of escapism, but not much more. However, it won’t take me long to forget this movie and I’ll probably never have the urge to watch it again.
“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is far from the worst addition to Disney’s live action remake series. However, like Disney’s previous attempt at stretching its animated live action remakes into multiple films with “Alice in Wonderland”, this one feels like they ran out of ideas about where to go and how to effectively get there. It’s nothing more than harmless and predictable fantasy entertainment that fails to recapture the charm of the original film and fails to embrace anything new or imaginative to justify its existence beyond earning the studio a bit of extra cash. As I said though, it’s not unwatchable. It’s fun if all you’re looking for is some escapism and typical genre thrills. It’s passable at best, forgettable at worst, but an all-around inferior and unneeded follow up to one of Disney’s better live action adaptations.