When we saw Maleficent and Aurora last, it seemed they got their perfect happy ending. The horned fairy returned to the Moors with Aurora to be its protector, and the young princess was crowned queen of the magical realm. Maleficent had opened her heart to the humans, and the two worlds were coexisting in harmony.
We should have learned, however, from the first film that we mustn’t be fooled by appearances. While we know full well that Maleficent was the one who woke Aurora from her death sleep, the people across the land in their world know a different story, and there is still a divide between humankind and the magic folk.
When Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) proposes to Aurora (Elle Fanning) and she accepts, the two see their wedding as the perfect opportunity to bridge the divide between the two kingdoms. Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), whom we learned from the first film was brutally betrayed by a man she fell in love with, sees no good coming from their union.
Nevertheless, against her better judgement, Maleficent agrees to attend a dinner in Prince Philip’s castle in the kingdom of Ulstead to meet his parents. The king (Robert Lindsay) seems happy enough to meet the horned fairy, while his wife, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), acts very warmly to Aurora.
Though Phillip and Aurora fall for her sweet gestures, we are shown early on that the queen has an ulterior motive for supporting the marriage. Meanwhile, tensions rise between the humans and the magical creatures, and Maleficent and Aurora soon find themselves at opposite ends of an impending war.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil has a promising opening that is reminiscent of the director Joachim Ronning’s last film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. The film jumps straight into the action, but from there, the pace slows down and drags a bit until the final battle, which much of the story leads up to.
It’s undeniable that Jolie and Fanning were made for their roles, and reprise them with the same amount of vigour as in the first film. Pfeiffer steps into the role of the ruthless Queen Ingrith, but it’s disappointing that her character has so little else to offer to the story than to serve as the antagonist from the beginning, especially when the whole point of the first film was to show that people (and fairies) are so much more than just good or evil.
The creators of the film clearly set out for it to be a CGI spectacle. The Moors is, as always, nothing less than enchanting, and the final battle scene does have its moments. However, the film loses a lot of the heart it had in the first film and focuses less on the characters' complicated psyches. By the end of the film, we have hardly learned anything about the new characters.
Maleficent’s loyal companion Diaval (Sam Ridley) and the three pixies that “looked after” Aurora when she was little, keep the film light-hearted, but the overall mood of the film is darker than the first. This was perhaps expected, but if you’re looking for more than a mildly epic battle scene and some impressive displays of CGI prowess, you won’t find it in this Disney sequel.