The first Maleficent movie shed new light on old Disney villain in its retelling of the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty.
Its sequel, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, which opened on Thursday, continues this trend – exploring family conflicts, growing pains, and other very human issues.
While it was important for its director Joachim Ronning that the film was visually spectacular, he also wanted the story to be rooted in its characters. “With any story, I look at the emotional core, the heart of the story,” he says.
“One of the reasons the first Maleficent was so successful was because it had a very strong and relatable emotional journey for the audience. In our story, Aurora is basically moving out, which is something all parents dread, and that’s exactly how Maleficent feels.”
Ronning also promises a visual spectacle that will follow up on the last film, which was widely praised for its visuals.
Visual effects supervisor Greg Brozenich, who worked with Ronning on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, had his hands full with the massive scope of the story and sheer number of magical creatures, which were entirely computer generated. The film has a grand total of 2,168 visual effect shots.
According to Brozenich, most of the film’s special effects efforts went towards creating the battle sequences that take place in and around Castle Ulstead, as well as the secret weapon created by the film’s villain, Queen Ingrith.
Her creation, a mix of fairy dust and iron which turns into a red, powder-like substance able to cause mass destruction, is brilliantly realised on screen.
When visualising the film, Ronning pictured the bombs exploding over Berlin during the second world war.
“Those were the images in my head,” he says. “That’s what I was trying to create.”
Given that the first film earned an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design, there were high expectations on the production team for the sequel. Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick led a team that included cutters, dyers, textile artists, prop designers, jewellery creators and buyers, who created distinct looks for each of the three main characters, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), Aurora (Elle Fanning) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer).
As the strongest character in the film, Maleficent needed to stand out from the others, with her own unique silhouette. “Maleficent is iconic,” Mirojnick explains. “So you have to be able to continue that idea and raise the stakes a bit. She is the black and white movie star of the fairy tale world, and that’s the image we started with. Her skin is very white, her lips are red and her body is totally silhouetted in a very strong shape.”
Aurora’s wardrobe is ethereal with a touch of sophistication, perfectly suited for someone who reigns over mystical creatures.
“I knew as Queen of the Moors it was essential that she begin her journey in a blue dress, with an organic fairy tale design made in the forest. The result looks like hand-tied leaves made by fairies,” says Mirojnick. “We needed it to look totally different from her formal courtly dresses.”
In contrast, Queen Ingrith’s look is regal, and suggests an air of wealth and privilege.
“We used platinum, gold and champagne colours coupled with a lot of jewellery to really bling her up and make a bold statement,” Mirojnick says. “Her colours do not give any hint of her being evil; in fact, it’s quite the contrary.”