The Reel Review
Angelina Jolie is back as the titular character in this sequel to 2014’s Maleficent, the wildly popular and oh-so-sweet Disney film very loosely based on the iconic Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. This time the fast-flying, badass fairy and her human goddaughter Aurora (Elle Fanning) find themselves at odds when Aurora’s pending wedding to Prince Philip creates a rift in their relationship. Is Maleficent just being overprotective? Or is she justified in her concerns over the nuptials?
Director Joachim Rønning (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) pulls out all the stops with a cleverly-constructed, absolutely gorgeous film that is bursting with dazzling color amidst its darker themes. (Not so subtle hint: See it in 3D.) Jolie, with her artfully enhanced cheekbones, is again at her best as the misunderstood fairy who’s skeptical of any love except that for her sweet, adoptive daughter. And Michelle Pfeiffer is maddeningly good as the nefarious Queen Ingrith, who illustrates how a misinformation campaign of fear and ignorance can have disastrous results for the uninformed. Between them, the duo’s performances elicit a full range of emotions – despair, wicked humor, furor, sadness and extreme joy. The story, from Maleficent screenwriter Linda Woolverton, even packs in some nice surprises.
The guess-who’s-coming-to-dinner scene in the first act is uncomfortably awesome, with Jolie chewing the scenery with her epically good, icy stares. Also impressive – the fast-paced, epic battles scenes worthy of a PG-rated version of Game of Thrones. It is rare that a sequel can hold a candle to an original. This one, while taking a decidedly darker tone, does, culminating in an optimistic, rousing ending about love conquering hate. Well done, beasty.
• Angelina Jolie and Chiwetel Ejiofor also worked together in 2010’s Salt
• Besides Oscar winner Angelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted), Maleficent: Mistress of Evil includes four Oscar nominees – Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake), Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread) and triple nominee Michelle Pfeiffer (Dangerous Liaisons, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Love Field)
• This is the first film Oscar-nominated director Joachim Rønning (Kon-Tiki) has worked on a film without his usual co-director Espen Sandberg.