A very grim ‘Maleficent 2’ doesn’t earn its happy ending

BY NEIL MORRIS, CN+R Film Critic
Posted 10/18/19

Angelina Jolie earned praise for her humanizing portrayal of a reimagined “Sleeping Beauty” antagonist in 2014’s “Maleficent.” For the sequel, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” Jolie is the macabre somnolent beauty, practically sleepwalking through a fable with excessively hard-hitting aims and regrettably banal execution.

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A very grim ‘Maleficent 2’ doesn’t earn its happy ending

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Angelina Jolie stars in 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.'
Angelina Jolie stars in 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.'
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney St
Posted

Angelina Jolie earned praise for her humanizing portrayal of a reimagined “Sleeping Beauty” antagonist in 2014’s “Maleficent.” For the sequel, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” Jolie is the macabre somnolent beauty, practically sleepwalking through a fable with excessively hard-hitting aims and regrettably banal execution.

Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) and Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) are getting hitched, for both love and the hope of uniting the feuding feudal kingdoms of humans and Moors. But first it’s time to meet the inlaws, and things don’t go so well when the winged, horned Maleficent visits the castle home of King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). Ingrith provokes Aurora’s adopted godmother to anger before framing her for a curse that puts the king to sleep. Maleficent, mortally wounded in the melee, is rescued by another winged fairy, Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and flown to a secret world inhabited by a flock of dark fey, driven underground by humans many years ago — it’s essentially Pandora. Borra (Ed Skrein), one of the fey leaders, wants war and retribution with the powerful Maleficent heading the attack, while Conall preaches peace.

Meanwhile, with the king out of commission, Ingrith’s true intentions become clear. She wants to annex Moor and its resources, so she invites its fairies and other inhabitants to Aurora and Philip’s wedding with plans to wipe them out with a powdery flower extract. And if the fey attack, she’s ready with iron bullets, which are poisonous to the fey.

The political allegory is as subtle as an anvil. Indeed, Ingrith does everything but build a wall between her and Moor. Still, depictions of imperialism, chemical warfare, and ethnic genocide are a bit heavy for a “happily every after” Disney movie — when the fairies arrive at the wedding, they’re literally lured into the cathedral, locked inside, and gassed. Then, as suddenly at the carnage begins, the de rigueur time for peace arrives and we’re supposed to accept that factions who were trying to exterminate each other minutes earlier are suddenly living in harmony.

Pfeiffer shines, chewing the scenery as a convincingly despicable villain. Everyone else is just waiting for the inevitable movie wedding finale, even if the marital bliss feels pat and utterly unearned.

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