In 1959, Walt Disney brought Sleeping Beauty to life in animated form, based on the book by Charles Perrault. The fairytale introduced what would become one of the most memorable villains in the Disney library, Maleficent, an evil witch who cursed Princess Aurora to die after pricking her finger on a spindle once she reaches her sixteenth birthday. During the height of classic Disney tales being adapted into live-action, 2014’s Maleficent focused on the backstory of the witch and changed the outcome of Aurora and Maleficent’s relationship, creating a mother-daughter complex. How does Maleficent: Mistress of Evil continue to expand on the backstory of the villain while also making a new sequel to the Sleeping Beauty tale?

Five years after the events of the first film, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) continues to be a missunderstood protector of the Moors with Aurora (Elle Fanning) as the queen. However, things take an unexpected turn as Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) proposes to Aurora and she accepts. Unknowingly, Phillip’s mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) sets forth plans to use the wedding to create a divide between the fairies in the Moors and the humans in the neighbouring kingdom. Maleficent finds herself siding against Aurora in the impending war as the fey, led by Borra (Ed Skrein) makes plans to protect the land.

At the beginning of 2019, we all cautionary prepared for Dumbo, Aladdinand The Lion King to be made into live-action remakes. Now we’ve reached the other side, it’s safe to say that, while well made, each movie stayed a little too close to the source material. Despite 2014’s Maleficent going in a new direction with a villain focused story, the film was still a paint-by-numbers remake of Sleeping Beauty. However, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, has the advantage of going to a completely new direction as a sequel expands on the universe the film built and creating a fun fantasy tale. Characters like Aurora and Phillip are given bigger roles and the three aunts are THANKFULLY decreased, while the film continues the Disney trend of bringing quite a spectacle in visual flair and environments.

However, the biggest missed opportunity that still lingers both the first film and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil did not take was really delving into the psychology of a villain. While Angelina Jolie still brings a powerful performance to the role and has moments of wickedness, her portrayal of Maleficient as a “misunderstood anti-hero” is a less engaging contrast to the chilling performance Eleanor Audley in the animated film. The fact that the “Mistress of Evil” part of the title has almost nothing to do with Jolie and relates more to Pfieffer’s Queen Ingirth feels a bit wrong.

In conclusion, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a vast improvement on the first movie as the story expands on the characters and lore that was built. However, the film still dances around telling a villain’s story to be an actual VILLIAN, which the backstory and overall purpose of the film slightly less interesting. If you enjoyed the first film and Angelina Jolie’s performance as the iconic witch, then the sequel is worth a look, especially as we are getting closer to Halloween.

Rating: ★★★ out of 5

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is in cinemas on October 17th.

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