Maleficent 2 review: Does the Mistress of Evil break the live-action curse?

Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL.
Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL. /

Familiar characters brought to life in an unfamiliar story is what makes Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Disney’s best live-action movie of the year.

Caution: There are spoilers in this post from Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.

“Don’t ruin my morning.” In a year dominated by big-screen retellings of animated masterpieces, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil tries very hard to live up to the title character’s first spoken words with this fresh take on a centuries-old fairy tale.

Angelina Jolie assumes the role of the powerful sorceress Maleficent — a cast out fae presumed to be the last of her kind. Maleficent is the godmother to recently crowned Queen Aurora of the Moors (Elle Fanning), who rules over the forest kingdom and all of its inhabitant creatures.

This relationship was the backbone of the original Maleficent and will prove no different here in the sequel. When Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) proposes marriage to Aurora, it throws a wrench in her relationship with Maleficent that we see spiral out of control as the movie progresses.

Angelina Jolie is Maleficent and Elle Fanning is Aurora in Disney’s MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL. /

In an ironic fashion, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil excels in spite of lackluster source material. Abandoning the humdrum and outdated themes at the core of the original Sleeping Beauty fairy tale was an excellent decision on director Joachim Rønning’s behalf.

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As always, Jolie steals the show. She effortlessly walks the tightrope between villain and victim. She puts on a wide-ranging emotional display; whether she’s going for threatening, vulnerable or detached, if nothing else it’s always convincing.

Fortunately, a star-studded cast of new additions arrives just in time to help Jolie pull the weight of this film’s dramatic set pieces this time around. Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfieffer) plays the primary antagonist and is instrumental in moving the plot forward through her conniving schemes. Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Borra (Ed Skrein) also provide an interesting dialogue on morality that ushers Maleficent to further develop as a character.

Speaking of morality, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is surprisingly earnest for a genre usually reserved for children. Maleficent is confronted with the dilemma of choosing between compassion or vengeance that hits right on the nose of real-life current events. Outside of Aurora and Ingrith, the film is jam-packed with morally grey characters that make understandable yet conflicting decisions that ultimately drives the plot towards the epic final battle.

Elle Fanning is Aurora, Angelina Jolie is Maleficent and Sam Riley is Diaval in Disney’s live-action MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL /

And epic it certainly was. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil put every cent of its massive $180 million budget to good use. It really goes to show just how far film has advanced as a whole when a second-rate Disney franchise still manages to have beautiful animation that would appear impossible just ten years ago.

From aesthetically pleasing pixie dust bombs that substitute for pyrotechnics, to gorgeous costume design that really helps flesh out the movie’s newly implemented high fantasy element, to adorable animated creatures that will surely steal the show for younger audiences, it’s clear that a lot of love and effort was put into making this a polished product.

But just like any true love, it has its flaws. Despite being the title character, it didn’t always feel like a Maleficent movie. Fanning left a lot to be desired as Aurora, leaving the impression I had played a better Sleeping Beauty upon the film’s conclusion.

The climactic church scene also built up the tension just to fall flat on its face, while the cartoonish Gerda (Jenn Murray) does her best Looney Tunes impression while plummeting to her presumptive death from the organ. But despite its flaws, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil gets a lot more right than it does wrong.

From the cute critters of the forest to the fae army being concerned with civilian casualties in the midst of a full-on invasion, almost every side character is endearing in their own way. The film also does a commendable job at avoiding generic fantasy tropes and actually shows an inkling of combat sense and logic during the extravagant final battle (looking at you Game of Thrones).

dark. Next. We don't need a dark Clueless reboot

Just like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil does its best to make something out of nothing. At its core, it’s a wicked turn of the tables on a childhood story that certainly never fails to entertain. While it doesn’t pack a bigger punch than the other villain-centric movie released this month, it is worth a watch regardless.

Final Verdict: 7.5/10

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is available to watch in theaters now!