THE MOVIE GUY — ‘Maleficent’ 2 doesn’t quite soar

Published 12:03 am Friday, October 18, 2019

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”

Walt Disney Pictures

Directed by Joachim Ronning

Starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harris Dickinson, Ed Skrein, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville.

Rated PG

2 ½ Stars

‘Maleficent’ 2 doesn’t quite soar

To the studio’s credit, Walt Disney is trying to evolve with the times. Gone are the days when the Mouse House could churn out a fairytale and count on audiences to flock to the theater because of the film’s simple, saccharin charm. Disney’s latest films, particularly their live action versions, come with a lot more edge and bite.

Perhaps this is most apparent in the “Maleficent” movies, where one of Disney’s most terrifying villains continues to receive a humanizing makeover. The latest entry into the franchise, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is filled with everything from young love to palace machinations and all-out warfare with an army of magical creatures that would seem right at home in an episode of “Game of Thrones.”

There’s a lot of stuff crammed into this movie, which makes it odd that the star seems to be a bystander for much of the story. It begins with Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) getting engaged to her Prince Charming (Harris Dickinson). Her adopted mother, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) tries to be on her best behavior at the bridal dinner, but the Queen (Michelle Pfeiffer) provokes an outburst that will lead the kingdoms into bloody warfare.

Well, the PG-rated version of bloody warfare.

There is a lot of death in this movie, but most of it happens to magical creatures that either dissolve into nothingness or transform into pretty flowers. The one magical being who does have a protracted death scene after he’s riddled with bullets is allowed to pass away surrounded by swirling magical mists that disguise the carnage we’ve just witnessed.

There’s wisdom in this as we don’t want to traumatize a theater full of young kids, but I was left wondering why this story needed to go down this path at all. None of the warfare story is related to the original fairytale, so the story decision seems tied to Hollywood’s ability to create fully believable magical creatures.

These creatures are very good. For my money, it’s the world building and creature design that make “Maleficent” shine. I can see myself combing over this film at home where I can stop the film and examine all the cool stuff that passes too quickly to appreciate in the movie.

I won’t stop to examine Jolie’s performance. She’s still quite good in the role, but due to a weak script, her relationship with her adopted daughter doesn’t ring true. More problematic, she spends too much time on the sidelines, observing the action from the shadows while she recovers from a wound. She’s great when she finally shows up to do battle, but it’s a case of too little, too late.

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” isn’t a bad movie, just a little boring at times and over-reliant on special effects instead of genuine emotion. Even Jolie and her sharper-than-ever cheekbones can’t make this “Maleficent” sequel soar.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are each week in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM (channel 6) and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@sbgtv.com.