REVIEW: Angelina Jolie carries a predictable but enjoyable 'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil'

Marcus Goh
PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures

SINGAPORE — When a sequel starts by undoing the plot of the previous movie, you know that the story is going to be somewhat suspect. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil does exactly that by regressing the happy ending of Maleficent, just so that it can keep its whole "evil" premise intact for the film. While that does sort of give audiences what they want to see (would you want to watch a happy and cheerful Maleficent?), it also sets up a confusing precedence for how the two movies are connected — especially when supporting character Prince Philip's actor from the first film, Brenton Thwaites, is replaced by Harris Dickinson.

The film takes place five years after the events of the first movie. Maleficent has gained a notorious reputation for her evil deeds, despite her living in the bright and cheerful fairy land of the Moors. But when her adopted daughter accepts a proposal from the prince of the neighbouring country, Maleficent has to contend with a human kingdom who fears her and all fairykind. A war looms, even as fracture lines form over familial bonds.

PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures

Let's get one thing out of the way — the opening is a cop out. It tries so desperately to remind you that Maleficent (Angeline Jolie) is "evil" (but then again, not quite) that even the title states as much. It manipulates events so transparently and resets status quos so blatantly that you wonder if this should have just been a soft reboot, since the movie jumps through so many hoops to present Maleficent as "evil".

But, as her story in the first movie shows, Maleficent isn't actually evil. She's "evil" (in quotation marks) in the most Disney way possible, but Angelina Jolie works wonders with this characterisation. After all, Maleficent has this internal struggle where she's inclined to be "evil", but tries her best to be "good" (also in quotation marks) for the sake of her loved one. And this is where the film shines, seeing Maleficent's struggle between what she wants to be and her innate character. It's incredibly entertaining seeing Maleficent attempting to be "good" while holding back her innate nature, but we don't see enough of this struggle in the film.

PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures

The movie does make up for it with a fabulous number of costume changes, both for Maleficent and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). It's clear that the producers had a great deal of fun coming up with the costumes that spell out Maleficent's evilness and the grim royalty of Queen Ingrith, given how elaborate and stylised each character's costumes are. Queen Ingrith's final outfit, a diamond-studded armoured dress, is by far the most imaginative and impressive of the film's numerous costumes.

Queen Ingrith's character is also a clever inversion of Maleficent's character, and draws some parallels as a warped reflection of the protagonist. Ingrith's actions are quite ghastly, even though they are motivated, and it's fairly horrifying to see the depths that she stoops to in order to achieve her goals. But her darkness and cruelty are undercut by her comeuppance, which is delivered in such a cartoony way that it's quite a dampener.

PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures

Being a fairytale derivate, the plot is predictable, with twists that you can see coming a mile away. The inclusion of a new species also feels rather shoehorned in — does it really add to the plot? Would it really have made a difference if they weren't there? How exactly did they exist without anybody knowing for all this time, especially when a major character is from said race?

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is an enjoyable, if predictable, romp through the world of the first Maleficent movie. The ease at which it undoes the first movie's events does hint at the likelihood of yet another sequel, which may mean that the happy ending of this film will be set aflame to make way for another dose of "evil" Maleficent. However, Maleficent's struggle is the core of the movie (series?), so it may not be such a bad idea after all.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? If you liked Maleficent.

PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures

Score: 3.9/5

Running time: 118 minutes

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a dark fantasy fairytale adventure film that is the sequel to 2014's Maleficent.

It is directed by Joachim Rønning and written by Linda Woolverton, with screenplay credits for Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue. It stars Angelina Jolie (Maleficent), Elle Fanning (Princess Aurora), Michelle Pfeiffer (Queen Ingrith), Sam Riley (Diaval), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Conall), Ed Skrein (Borra), Harris Dickinson (Prince Philip), and Robert Lindsay (King John).

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil opens in cinemas:
- 17 October, 2019 (Singapore)
- 16 October, 2019 (Philippines)

Read also:
Review: Maleficent was less than magnificent

PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures

Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter who writes for “Crimewatch”, as well as popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Code of Law”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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