Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

 

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A big-budget reinvention of Charles Perrault's classic tale is given a politically enlightened makeover.

 

Maleficent Mistress of Evil

Perfect aim: Michelle Pfeiffer

   

“This is no fairy tale!” proclaims Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). And she’s right. It’s the year’s most politically correct horror film. Queen Ingrith sees anybody who is not like her as deleterious to the status quo of her kingdom. Even her own family must suffer in order that her realm be free of outsiders. But there’s more to Maleficent: Mistress of Evil than a Brexit critique – it’s a call to arms of Extinction Rebellion proportions. Even as Ingrith plots to eliminate the natural world, nature proves to be an invincible force, even at the expense of many human lives. Of course, Nature will find a way. It is commendable, too, that the leader of the Dark Feys – an ostracised race of winged creatures – is played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, while the queen’s in-house technokraut is embodied by the vertically challenged Warwick Davis. Even Ingrith’s loyal henchperson (Jenn Murray) would appear to have transgender tendencies. And the film is not just a morality tale addressing the concerns of a modern world, but is a reinvention of the traditional fairy tale itself. The backstory of Disney’s beloved Sleeping Beauty itself proves to be a fabrication of Queen Ingrith’s doing, designed to besmirch the repute of those living in the shadows of those scary woodlands.

 

The original Maleficent (2014), which showed younger viewers that even a legendary villainess had her reasons to be grumpy, has obviously started a trend. Batman’s nemesis Joker now has his own movie, while the latter’s girlfriend, Harley Quinn, gets hers next year (7 February). But Angelina Jolie, as the wicked godmother of yore, got there first and her story continues here when her ward, Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning), accepts the marriage proposal of Prince Phillip of Ulstead. Maleficent is none too pleased by the arrangement, but agrees to meet Aurora’s in-laws, King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), at an introductory dinner. However, the small talk quickly gets out of hand and Ingrith and Miss M cannot conceal their mutual dislike, leading to bruised egos and calamity.

 

These days special effects are more than special and merit a new moniker – today’s technical wizardry is beyond movie magic. Here, the landscapes, creatures and sound effects are predictably awesome, the beat of Maleficent’s wings recalling the throb of rotor blades at the start of Apocalypse Now. Both the kingdoms of Aurora’s Moorland and Phillip’s Ulstead are truly enchanting, with castles that only Disney could summon up from its storyboards. If one were to nit-pick, the frosty dinner party is a missed opportunity for some genuine belly laughs, although Angelina Jolie, between gritted teeth, does her best. Ms Jolie’s comic talents have long been eclipsed by her cheekbones, which are honed to razor wire here, along with deadly looking collarbones. As Prince Phillip, Harris Dickinson could have been more charming, while the film’s title has got it all wrong. Maleficent is actually the Mistress of Misinterpretation. But overall, this sterling sequel is smart, inventive, accomplished and progressive.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sam Riley, Ed Skrein, Harris Dickinson, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Lindsay, Warwick Davis, Jenn Murray, David Gyasi.

 

Dir Joachim Rønning, Pro Joe Roth, Angelina Jolie and Duncan Henderson, Screenplay Linda Woolverton, Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Ph Henry Braham, Pro Des Patrick Tatopoulos, Ed Laura Jennings and Craig Wood, Music Geoff Zanelli, Costumes Ellen Mirojnick.

 

Walt Disney Pictures/Roth Films-Walt Disney.

118 mins. USA/UK. 2019. Rel: 18 October 2019. Cert. PG.