Review: ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ sleepy version of original |

Review: ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ sleepy version of original

Associated Press
Actress Angelina Jolie poses for photographers at the photo call for the film ‘Maleficent Mistress of Evil’ in London.

Director Robert Stromberg’s 2014 take on “Sleeping Beauty” with “Maleficent” entertained through a fresh look at the familiar fairy tale and with a story that showed the power of love can be found even with the darkest of hearts. This was all delivered through one of the most endearing performances of Angelina Jolie’s career as she took on Maleficent.

Jolie reprises her role in “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.” But except for an on-target performance by the film’s star and stunning cinematography by Henry Braham (“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”), the sequel ends up a muddled mess, mostly manifested through melodramatic acting and a mangled script. Jolie and the production’s look are the only things memorable.

At the heart of the original film was the story of how the wicked master of the Moors puts a sleeping spell on young princess Aurora (Elle Fanning). That’s where the production took a left turn, as Maleficent developed motherly feelings for Aurora and her character became a twisted version of what a fairy godmother is supposed to be.

The sequel has an older Aurora reigning over all the creatures that live in the forest. She’s found time to fall in love with Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson), who lives on the more affluent side of the river. The news they plan to wed upsets Maleficent, but she’s willing to let the union happen so Aurora will be happy. All she has to do is get through a meeting with her future in-laws, including the manipulative Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). She sees the wedding as less a matter of love but more of a way to wipe out the creatures of the woods.

The screenplay by Linda Woolverton, Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster pales in comparison to the original film. Instead of a beautiful story about love and redemption, the sequel is nothing more than a tale about awful in-laws. In this case, awful means someone willing to murder thousands of creatures for personal gain. That’s interesting, but even with Pfeiffer doing her best evil work since Catwoman, the story never reaches any serious emotional levels.

And the script is loaded with sloppy writing. The film establishes that Maleficent isn’t one of a kind, but there is a whole species of fliers who have been living in secrecy to survive. It’s established that no one in the castle was aware of the group, but when it comes time to go to war with them, the entire castle’s defenses have been designed to fight the opponents from the skies.

There’s also confused writing as to why Ingrith is so determined to wipe out the creatures. It has something to do with being poor as a child, but she’s living in a castle where things appear to be going extremely well. Even the way the creatures act has to be ignored in an overly melodramatic scene where they are in danger but can’t seem to escape a pretty flimsy trap that includes a mad organ player. And the big moment where justice is done is played with a corniness that ends the movie on a flat note.

All that could have been overlooked if the story had the slightest touch of what made the first film work. Director Joachim Ronning (“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”) has put together a film that is stunning visually, from the dainty creatures to the massive concluding battle. His use of dazzling colors and dark tones set distinct moods throughout the production.

It’s not enough to distract from how only Jolie is able to bring the kind of deep passion to the performance that elevates a fairy tale into a magical tale of fairies. She surrounded by so many average acting efforts there’s no hope for the heart of the work. That leaves the visuals as the only thing that keeps the film from making every beauty watching it very sleepy.

“Maleficent” was magnificent. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” just misses.

Categories: AandE | Movies TV
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.