Film Review: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil ★1/2

I don’t get the love for Maleficent. The first film was dull and muddled. The only outstanding feature was Angelina Jolie (her look, her performance, her everything – divine), but the rest was like watching a kid vomit after a long day at Disney World – lots of colour and movement but I never need to see that again!

Now we’ve got the she-quel – same dross, now with added Michelle Pfeiffer.

Yass, you scream! It’s Maleficent vs Catwoman! Bring this shit on!

Sit down, poor reader because Maleficent: Mistress of Evil doubles down on the trash from the original, and refuses to capitalise on its leading women.

Remember all the annoying denizens of the Moors – the overwhelmingly underwhelming CG cast of the original? Yup, they’re all back. Poor Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville & Juno Temple – their heads shoved on tiny bodies again. I hope they managed to film all their lines in one day and get back to their acclaimed careers.

Elle Fanning’s back as Aurora bringing the “annoying teen-girl at her first music festival” vibes. Thankfully she’s got big hunky Prince Phillip (sexy Titans’ Brenton Thwaites got recast with equally sexy Harris Dickinson – who seems to be in everything right now) to marry. Sadly his parents (Pfeiffer and Robert Lindsay) are all a bit Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner when Maleficent and Aurora turn up.

Obvs things go badly because Pfeiffer’s Queen Ingrith is “Trump with a moat” out to get rid of the ‘diverse’ people of the Moors so her ‘normal’ people can take over the land. So anyway Queen Trump poisons her own King, blames Maleficent, Maleficent gets injured and is sent into subplot limbo and Aurora potters around a castle hopefully at least enjoying the Prince’s “white privilege” if you know what I mean.

Meanwhile Queen Trump consults the Nazi Scientist she has in the basement who’s experimenting on Fairies (Gays!) to find out how to kill them – yup, shit gets dark if you look at it close enough. Then after a convenient amount of time Aurora figures her shit out, Deus-ex-Jolie flies back in to save the day and Queen Trump gets taken down, but only after Prince Phillip gets to denounce White Supremacy (so you don’t feel bad about being all hot for him when he unbuttons his shirt).

Which genius thought the best way to produce a sequel (i.e. fulfil Jolie’s contractual obligations) was to sideline their star with a subplot in which she DOES NOTHING. Jolie’s Maleficent look was the stand out success of this franchise, but now we meet a tribe of her own race and they look like they stepped out of the orgy from The Matrix Reloaded. Gone is the sleek, severe, witch-boss look in favour of left-overs from Game of Thrones with wings tacked on. Throw in OSCAR-NOMINEE Chiwetel Ejiofor as, what – love-interest, exposition machine, token-diversity? Ed Skein does his standard hot-not-hot “bad boy” thing in a daft wig, while the multi-racial cast of models around them (I guess it’s because they’re meant to be starving outcasts – but you know, they just called around Elite for some extras) snarl like this is their first week at acting school. “This week you’ll be an animal of your choice, next week you’ll be a tree.”

And Jolie does NOTHING! She gets lectures about how hard life is. She gets a history lesson (she’s descended from a Phoenix which is why she’s so powerful – also… *psst* phoenixes come back from the dead *shhhhhh). She gets to look at little winged-toddlers and gets that biological clock ticking. She gets to kill time while the other plot moves.

And she DOES NOTHING! She barely even has any dialogue! She lets the folk of the moors suffer while she’s off flirtin’-and-flyin’ like she’s British Airways cabin crew!

Worse – Jolie and Pfeiffer hardly share any screen time! They get ONE scene to snipe at each other (it is, in fairness, fucking glorious), but that’s it really!

And don’t even get me started on the little Nazi Scientist who comes up with a way to GAS FAIRIES, and then has a change of heart and frees one or two – and is thus COMPLETELY FORGIVEN! At least the nasty, ginger organ-player cops a real (PG – off screen) ending. Yes, there’s an evil, ginger organ-player – and that’s not a euphemism.

I know this is aimed at a family/kids audience, but did we need a script that shoves plot developments down our throats? From a proverbial “Chekov’s Phoenix” to Aurora calling Maleficent “god-mother” every five minutes (gee, do you think she’ll call Maleficent “mother” by the end?), the film lacks any sense of surprise.

As with the original, Jolie is the best damn thing on the screen – gleefully chewing the scenery and living her best drag queen life. Pfeiffer gives her a run for her money in her multiple pearl-necklaces, but this is Jolie’s film and you never damn well forget it!

We should have had Death Becomes Her with wings – two powerful women trying to outmaneuver and out-quip each other for 90 minutes straight. We were promised a feast, and got a KFC bucket instead. Pray to the Fairies there isn’t a third film.

By Chad Armstrong

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