Review: Maleficent 2 (Mistress of Evil)

Maleficent is one of my favorite live-action Disney remakes. It was the only one that tried to do something different with the story it was retelling. Still, I found myself skeptical when I found out that Disney was planning a sequel. It was enough to tell the story from a new perspective without needing to delve further into this alternate Sleeping Beauty universe. Once I saw the trailer for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, however, I started to get pretty excited in spite of myself. It looked like it had a unique story that we've never seen before in a fairy tale setting. Like the first movie, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil takes place in a world where women are strong and powerful and men are either weak or evil. This didn't particularly hinder my enjoyment of the movie as a woman, but I can see how it might be an issue, and so can screenwriter Linda Woolverton.

My favorite thing about Mistress of Evil was watching Princess Aurora blossom into a fierce young queen. This was one of few Disney movies shows a princess come of age and begin her reign. From her very first scene, Aurora was portrayed as a force to be reckoned with, a stark contrast from the naive foundling from the first movie. Though Maleficent's influence over her for the last five years is clear, she still possesses the youthful freckle-faced natural beauty that I loved about her in the first movie. She is one with the faeries and flowers of the Moors from her free-flowing blonde curls to her floral-patterned lace dresses and bare feet. Her relationship with Prince Phillip has also grown exponentially. In some ways, he is still the same awkward clumsy youth whose meek kiss couldn't even break a curse, but now he is completely devoted to Aurora and would give up everything for her. If it weren't for their powerful guardians, this would have been a very short movie, cutting straight to the wedding. Instead, Aurora must battle forces beyond her comprehension to finally obtain her happy ending.

I really appreciated that Mistress of Evil didn't follow the same tired formula that Disney has been using for the past five or six years in which they try to trick the audience into thinking that the antagonist is someone else. It was clear from the very beginning that Queen Ingrith was the villain, so the main of the story suspense revolved around waiting for Aurora and Phillip to figure it out. Ingrith was indeed a powerful and formidable villain with a much higher death rate than many of Disney's previous evil queens. Using Prince Phillip's mother as the villain was also a subtle nod to Charles Perrault's version of "Sleeping Beauty" in which the prince's mother turned out to be a wicked ogre that tried to eat their children. I only wished that Phillip's father, King John, had not been so oblivious to the politics of his own kingdom and those surrounding it. It was also nice to learn about Maleficent's origins. Seeing the history of the dark fae was a big treat. I probably would have enjoyed the movie just as much if it had been only about them. The only thing I didn't like was the fact that they hid from Maleficent for most of her life, forcing her to think that she was alone and causing her heart to harden.

Like most Disney sequels, there were some things in Mistress of Evil that don't make sense if you think about them too hard. For instance, everyone keeps saying Maleficent raised Aurora and that she's essentially Aurora's foster mother. Anyone who saw the first Maleficent or Sleeping Beauty knows that Aurora was raised by the three good fairies. Maleficent put a twist on that by making the fairies incompetent guardians, which forced Maleficent to intervene from the shadows and make sure that Aurora didn't die. However, it was still the fairies that Aurora came to with her problems, questions, and concerns. They were the only ones she ever knew for the first sixteen years of her life. She didn't even meet Maleficent until she was practically a young lady. To say that Maleficent raised her is a bit of a stretch. Another thing that didn't make sense was that the movie implied that the spinning wheel was cursed with Maleficent's sleeping spell, and not Aurora herself. If you are not able put these two gaping plot holes aside, it becomes a bit of a challenge to enjoy the movie.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a beautiful film that is just as empowering to women as the first one. I loved seeing Aurora grow from a naive princess to a magical queen surrounded by faeries, flowers, and sparkles. The movie had a surprisingly high number of casualties thanks to its ruthless villainess, Queen Ingrith. It was great to learn that Maleficent was not the last of her kind, and there was a very powerful emotional climax that I won't spoil. I do wish they had combed out some of the gaping plot holes from the script before filming it, but I enjoyed the rest of the movie enough to ignore them for the time being. I also appreciated the subtle reference they made to Merryweather's sacrifice in the original 1959 Sleeping Beauty movie.


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