'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' Review

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Five years after the first “Maleficent” shook-up the classic “Sleeping Beauty” story, Angelina Jolie’s horned villain is back. Well, sort of. Jolie’s character doesn’t really have much of a presence in her own sequel. That’s just one of the many problems with “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”.

As was the case last time, Maleficent is somewhat misunderstood. Once again she’s more of a victim of circumstance than a true villain. And she actually has less screen time than Elle Fanning (who returns as Aurora) and Michelle Pfeiffer, who joins the series as Queen Ingrith. She’s Prince Phillip’s mother. The dashing prince of the kingdom that borders Maleficent’s land of The Moors has asked for Aurora’s hand in marriage.

Maleficent is not thrilled with the idea of letting Aurora go. And things definitely get heated when the two are invited to dinner with Phillip and his parents. This is the strongest scene in “Mistress of Evil” because it allows Jolie and Pfeiffer get to square-off. The script could’ve used more of this. Instead, after a strong start, “MOE” becomes just another average, uninspired fantasy action/adventure.

Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie

The fun, edge and deviousness of the original “Maleficent” is completely missing. The writers have simply plopped Maleficent into a new story, using her name and a deceptive title to sell tickets. She’s surrounded by far less dynamic characters, including Conall (played by a waisted Chiwetel Ejiofor), who’s one of Maleficent’s horned brethren. Director Joachim Ronning (who co-helmed 2017’s very good “Pirates of the Caribbean” series finale), fails to instill any magic. Sure, Jolie’s cheekbones still wow. But all the CGI woodland creatures are fairly standard, and some of the flying sequences feature poor green screen execution.

“Mistress of Evil” is a wasted opportunity. And, on Disney’s part, a flat-out marketing lie. Getting one quality “Maleficent” movie was a treat. But as it turns out, success ringing twice was just (upon) a dream.

Jackson Murphy: Emmy Award-winning Film Critic / Entertainment Reporter. Broadcast Film Critics Assoc. (@CriticsChoice), SAG-AFTRA (@SAGAwards)