‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ Is a Visual Feast
Planning a wedding can be a stressful ordeal for any young couple, but Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) and Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) face a rather unique set of challenges on their way to the altar in “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.” Picking up five years after the events of “Maleficent,” this new adventure begins with Aurora, now Queen of the Moors, receiving a proposal of marriage from the prince who gave her that infamous kiss that released her from the spell cast on her by the woman who, despite all odds, grew to love her and raise her as her own, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), Protector of the Moors. Although Maleficent is worried about how a union with the human kingdom will upset the peace that has been kept the past half a decade, no one is prepared for the epic battle that eventually erupts on the big day.
Although “Mistress of Evil” is a fantasy film, and while viewers will never know what it is like to be a powerful fairy with wings and horns like the title character, much of the conflict is rooted in reality. On the pretense of getting to know the woman who raised their future daughter-in-law, Phillip’s parents, icy Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) and the more agreeable King John (Robert Lindsay), invite Aurora and Maleficent to dinner at their castle. Despite all the walls she puts up, Maleficent is truly fond of her goddaughter, and reluctantly accepts the invite for her sake. But all children are self-conscious about their parents in some way or another, and we see cracks in Maleficent’s usually steely demeanor when Aurora offers her a scarf to cover her horns. Jolie even displays a bit of vulnerability and comedic flair in a scene in which she practices smiling and greeting the royal parents.
In spite of the best intentions of the betrothed couple, the dinner is less than successful, as what starts as a battle of wits between Maleficent and Ingrith escalates to John getting a spell cast on him that puts him into a slumber. As it turns out, Ingrith has her own agenda and beef with the fairies, and she is making nefarious plans with the help of a sorcerer (Warwick Davis).
“Mistress of Evil” is a feast for the eyes. The costumes were carefully chosen and tailored to each female character. Kindhearted, dewy beauty Aurora incorporates plenty of florals into her look, Maleficent uses a black wardrobe and blood red lips to amplify her strength, and ice queen Ingrith is all about her diamonds and pearls. There’s also the visually stunning CGI-worlds that the humans and fairies respectively inhabit, including a secret society of winged-creatures like Maleficent. Although it’s touching to see Maleficent meet those like her for the first time, there’s not enough time to fully develop this subplot, as a storm’s brewing in the human kingdom.
As Pfeiffer is marvelously wicked as Ingrith, “Mistress of Evil” is at its best when she’s going head-to-head with Jolie. When Maleficent is off finding herself for much of the second half, the plot suffers. There are some strong scenes of push and pull between Fanning and Pfeiffer, but when the three leading ladies are absent we’re just left with mostly silly secondary characters, including the obnoxious trio of fairies (Juno Temple, Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville) returning from the first film. As for Phillip, he’s charming enough, but this being a world where women rule, he mostly takes a backseat while the ladies do their thing. Still, it’s a mostly fun ride that leads to a predictable yet satisfying ending.
“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” opens Oct. 18 nationwide.