Weddings are such beautiful occasions, aren’t they? So much pomp and ceremony, people dressed in their best, two families coming together. The power of love and fluffy white dresses and all that jazz.
When it comes to weddings on screen, however, there are usually two kinds: very beautiful or very dramatic. And if you’re in a fantasy show? Better wear a suit of armour under your tuxedo. Because as Game Of Thrones memorably showed us, weddings can be very, very violent things indeed.
Want another example? Check out Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil, the sequel to Disney’s 2014 film Maleficent. While it centres around a wedding, the film has time to throw in exotic fantasy races, evil curses and epic battles. Perhaps the most magical thing about it, however, is that it manages to be an actually entertaining Disney sequel, one miles better than its predecessor.
In case you’ve forgotten: The first movie, Maleficent, was a retelling of the classic Disney film Sleeping Beauty, from the point of view of the villain, evil fairy Maleficent (Angelina Jolie).
There, we learnt that she wasn’t so bad after all, and really it was her true love that broke the curse that caused Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) to fall into an enchanted sleep. (Yes, it was Maleficent who made that curse to begin with, but ... ehhh).
This movie takes place five years later. Aurora is now queen of the Moors, her fairy kingdom, under the watchful eye of Maleficent. Things are disrupted, however, after Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson, replacing Brenton Thwaites from the first film) proposes to her: Maleficent has a huge hatred of human kingdoms, and so opposes the union.
Maleficent is invited to dinner with Phillip’s parents, the kindly King John (Robert Lindsay) and the cunning Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), who takes an instant dislike to Maleficent. And you thought visiting your in-laws was bad!
From there, the movie could have just been two hours of Pfeiffer and Jolie throwing barbs and being witchy to each other, and it would have been a great success. Both veteran actresses seem to be having a ball in these roles, and get some really nice lines.
But the plot throws in a crime and the complications that arise from it. Maleficent flees, only to discover she is part of the Dark Fae, a race of people who all have the same horns and wings as she does (not her supernaturally sharp cheekbones though, those are apparently all Jolie’s).
Queen Ingrith wants to start a war with the fairy kingdoms, and apparently Maleficent is the only one who can stop her. She’s a blond, temperamental leader who wants to use the fear of foreign races to maintain power among her subjects ... now why does this seem so familiar?
The story may seem a lot to take, but it’s a fun ride from beginning to end. Director Joachim Ronning (Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man Tell No Tales), goes full on fantasy film here, populating the world of Sleeping Beauty with a fascinating variety of creatures and concepts.
The film is a visual delight: the costumes are nice, the fairies are cool to look at, and its settings, especially the fairy kingdoms, are lovely.
The story does have a few holes: Queen Ingrith’s evil plans seem awfully reliant on luck to work, and a lot of the dark Fae’s decisions come across as convenient or frustratingly dumb. But overlook those, and the film is quite a fun ride, although it can sometimes be a bit dark. It has kidnapping and racial genocide as part of its themes!
Sadly also, the worst thing about the first film, Aurora’s three bickering fairy guardians (Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville) also return, although they are thankfully a lot more bearable here. Indeed a lot of the fairies, while interesting, can sometimes be so cute they become cloying.
Acting-wise, it’s a good cast. Dickinson is alright as Prince Phillip (whose character was bland in Sleeping Beauty), and Chiwetel Ejiofor musters some gravitas to play Conall, the leader of the Dark Fae.
This film, however, belongs to the women. So much so, it should have been called Female-ficent.
Although her role feels a bit reduced here from the first film, Jolie is still terrific as Maleficent. You really can’t imagine anyone else pulling off her character’s icy regality. Fanning does well as the spirited Aurora, and Pfeiffer absolutely slays in her Wicked Queen character.
There’s been a lot of criticism of Disney making live-action versions of its popular animated films, but this film shows they can be done well. So let Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil cast her dark spell on you – it’s definitely good entertainment for two hours.
If anything, this film has a battle with two powerful women fighting over the fate of their kingdoms, and does it way, WAY better than the Game Of Thrones finale.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
Director: Joachim Ronning
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Ellie Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chiwetel Ejiofor