By Heidi Sutton
It’s been five years since Disney brought us the fairy tale Maleficent, a twist on the story of Sleeping Beauty where the focus is not on Aurora who falls into a deep sleep after pricking her finger on a spindle but on the evil fairy who put a curse on the princess in the first place.
Now its darker sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil hits local theaters and does not disappoint. King Stefan is dead and Aurora has been raised by her fairy godmother Maleficent in the Moors, a magical place filled with strange and mythical creatures. Humans and fairies live separate but in peace.
When Aurora becomes engaged to Prince Phillip, his parents, King John and Queen Ingrith of the Kingdom of Ulstead, invite Aurora and Maleficent to the castle for dinner. It is there that we discover the queen’s true intentions — to frame Maleficent for the murder of the king in order to have cause to declare war on the Moorfolk with devastating consequences.
Fans of the first film will be pleased to know that much of the original cast is back, with the exception of Brenton Thwaites who played Prince Phillip in the first film. Angelina Jolie is back as Maleficent complete with horns, wings and cheek prosthetics; Elle Fanning is the sweet Aurora; Sam Riley returns as Diaval, Maleficent’s loyal servant and pet raven; while Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville reprise their roles as pixies Knotgrass, Thistlewit and Flittle.
Newcomers include the handsome Harris Dickinson as Aurora’s prince, Robert Lindsay as King John, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Conall the Dark Fey and the incredible Michelle Pfeiffer as the villainous Queen Ingrith, aka Aurora’s future mother-in-law from hell.
It’s hard to figure out who director Joachim Ronning’s target audience is. On the one hand, the film is at times very violent, with an intense war scene between the humans and an army of dark fey, an attempted extermination of the Moorfolk in the palace’s church of all places and the sacrifice of one of the film’s most beloved characters. On the flip side, many of the Moors’ inhabitants are borderline silly with big eyes and cute voices and seemed geared toward children.
With a budget of $180 million, the film is visually stunning with special mention to the scene where an injured Maleficent is rescued by her own kind and given a winged tour of a secret world where the dark fey eek out an existence away from humans. (I predict a new ride at Disney World.)
In the end, the wedding of Aurora and Phillip serves as a union of the Kingdom of Ulstead and the Moors and a timely lesson against fear, bigotry, racism and intolerance and that makes it worth a view.
Rated PG, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is now playing in local theaters
Photos courtesy of Disney Studios