Opening 17 Oct 2019
As with any good fairy tale, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil begins, “Once upon a time…” ohm… “Twice upon a time,” as a soothing voice reads the backstory (Maleficent, 2014) to refresh memories. Altogether, the fates have been dispensing favors near and far, fanning the coals of love. Protector of the Moors and godmother Maleficent (Jolie) grudgingly accepts Aurora (Fanning) and Phillip’s (Dickinson) decision, even so far as agreeing to attend a prenuptial family gathering. In spite of this, the evening ends on a sour note with King John (Robert Lindsay) taking to his bed, Queen Ingrith (Pfeiffer) taking charge, and Maleficent taking off, without Diaval (Riley). As the castle makes ready, in a hitherto unknown realm there is unrest as Borra (Ed Skrein) and Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor) compete for advantage. With futures at stake, sides are drawn up and impending plans give way to complete disarray.
Director Joachim Rønning molds the lively, witty screenplay (Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster, Linda Woolverton) from Woolverton’s imaginative story into a great fantasy adventure with characters that draw us in. The stellar cast is excellent: Jolie and Pfeiffer’s darkly forceful performances excel, and the fairy Aunts—Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville—are, undeniably, scene-stealers. Amazing CGI VFX and Animation magic outshine audiences’ collective imaginations. Editors Laura Jennings and Craig Wood’s nicely tie off the many subplots; Geoff Zanelli’s music complements visuals, just as director of photography Henry Braham meets challenging locations and sets requisites.
Hearkening to the Disney magic of yore, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is being released on its original’s 60th anniversary, Sleeping Beauty (1959). Good family entertainment, although note the rating is PG, i.e. not for small children. Nicely counterbalancing any sinister scenes is an adventure for everyone, which may cause a few to tear up, so have tissues handy. (Marinell Haegelin)