Live-action fairytale movies and adaptations of animated Disney classics have been all the rage lately. This year alone, we’ve already seen live-action iterations of “Dumbo,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.” “Lady and the Tramp” debuts on Disney+ next month, which will be followed by “Mulan” hitting theaters in March. This is a trend that doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Already announced live-action remakes include the likes of “The Little Mermaid,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Peter Pan,” “Lilo and Stitch,” “The Sword in the Stone,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and many more.
The latest film to come from this trend is “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” a sequel to 2014’s “Maleficent,” which retold the classic story of “Sleeping Beauty” from the perspective of the film’s iconic villain, Maleficent, brought to life by Angelina Jolie.
To be honest, I did not enjoy the first “Maleficent” at all. It was a boring, half-baked and lackluster take on “Sleeping Beauty” that never needed to be made, and it only really made the menacing, titular character less thrilling to watch. Jolie was good in the lead role, but other than that, I didn’t find anything to like about it.
Needless to say, I had very low expectations going into “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” a sequel nobody seemed to be asking for, but one Disney felt the need to spend $185 million producing (and that doesn’t even include marketing).
To my surprise, I found that I somewhat enjoyed “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.” It’s still not a very good film, but it’s one that I didn’t hate myself for seeing, which is always a positive. It’s certainly an improvement over its predecessor, and it takes some truly shocking turns in its story.
“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” picks up a couple of years following the events of the first film, which saw Jolie’s villain take a more motherly turn, as opposed to her evil one in the original “Sleeping Beauty,” choosing to raise Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) and (spoiler alert) eventually being the one to break her curse with true love’s kiss.
When the sequel begins, Aurora and Prince Philip (this time played by Harris Dickinson rather than Brenton Thwaites) are planning their wedding, but Maleficent is against the idea of their marriage. Philip’s mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), can’t stand the idea of being vaguely related to Maleficent.
The plot for the rest of the film involves Queen Ingrith being openly hostile toward Maleficent, Maleficent discovering a society of other Dark Feys (her species) and then the culmination of a war between the Dark Feys and humans.
Let’s start with the most shocking aspect of “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” — how dark the film is.
This is a pretty violent film at times, and honestly I’m not sure I would suggest families go to it. Yes, it has the name Disney on it, and yes, it’s a sort of spin-off or reimagining of “Sleeping Beauty,” but “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” strongly strays away from the fluffy and fun atmosphere that often comes with Disney’s fairytales.
I was utterly shocked by the direction the film took, which is primarily driven by Queen Ingrith, who serves as the film’s villain. I could not stand this character, which was good considering she’s the villain. She is relentlessly unlikable, and yet the characters around her do what she commands, even if her commands include sparking a race war and come close to inciting fairy genocide.
Yeah, you read that right. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” gets so dark that it comes a little too close to “Game of Thrones” level violence by depicting a Red Wedding-esque scene in which, by Queen Ingrith’s command, all sorts of fairytale creatures find themselves basically being gassed in a church. It’s honestly the most shocking and horrifying scene in the film, and I honestly cannot believe that Disney, considering its family-friendly image, allowed it.
I’m not saying that films shouldn’t depict actions as dark as this, but it’s just not what you would normally expect from a Disney fairytale movie.
As far as the main plot of the film goes, it was interesting enough. I found myself entertained by all of the family drama between Philip and his parents and between Aurora and Maleficent. The whole subplot about Maleficent discovering her species was somewhat intriguing, but it didn’t make as much of an impact as expected.
I would say that “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” certainly leaves an impact on its audience. Unlike the first “Maleficent,” it’s not going to be a movie that you forget about immediately after seeing it. With that being said, I don’t know if this is a film that I can recommend for families due to how dark the movie gets at times.
It’s a good movie, but I don’t think it really knew who its target audience was, because kids aren’t going to be able to understand the intense thematic material here. The people that would understand the horrors the film depicts are all adults who most likely have no interest in seeing a sequel to “Maleficent.”