Admittedly, I had very little interest in this movie after seeing the first film and finding it hard to remember. That may also be because we watched it on a bus in Florida while the driver got lost on the way back to our hotel, but that’s neither here nor there.
Maleficent told the story of Sleeping Beauty from the villain’s point of view, and while it was inventive in many ways (this is actually a story writing exercise that Neil Gaiman teaches: take a familiar story and find a different way to tell it), but I don’t honestly remember much of it. Other than the fact that Angelina Jolie is incredible in almost everything she does. So, going into the sequel, my expectations were low. Low, low, low.
Surprisingly, this film was quite fun in some parts and really kept my attention. It’s biggest shortcoming is the over-use of CGI. Characters and entire sequences are CGI and they look like a bad video game – and sadly, the movie starts like this. Not the best way to get things moving.
Aurora (Elle Fanning) is Queen of the Moors and takes her position very seriously, doing what she can to help the denizens of the moors. Maleficent (Jolie) is her protector and guardian following the death of King Stefan in the first film. Prince Philip of neighboring Ulstead wants to marry Aurora but Maleficent is not having it. Philip’s parents, King John and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfifrer), invite the newly engaged pair and Maleficent to dinner at the castle. Things don’t go well as Maleficent believes the marriage to be a mistake and the humans to be untrustworthy. Ingrith baits her throughout the meal by recounting the inaccurate story of what happened to Aurora (the story we all know from Sleeping Beauty) as well as claiming that Aurora will be her daughter once they are wed and Maleficent will no longer have a maternal bond to her.
Basically, she’s super rude and everybody knows it. Maleficent (over)reacts by blasting the room with magical energy and the King faints (or does he?), for which Ingrith immediately accuses her of cursing the King. As she’s fleeing, Maleficent is shot with an iron bullet (which kills fairies, apparently; missed that day of Folklore 101 I guess), and she falls into the ocean where she is rescued by a mysterious winged creature.
Turns out, there are a bunch of fairies like her still living in the world, but they have been driven into hiding by humans. Their peaceful leader Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor) tells her she is one of the last living Dark Fey and is a descendent from the Phoenix, an ancient and powerful Dark Fey ancestor. All the while, the creatures of the moor are arriving for Aurora and Philip’s wedding, but there is a foul plot afoot, orchestrated by Ingrith, to destroy the fairies and claim the moors for Ulstead. The question becomes can Maleficent return in time to save Aurora and the woodland creatures from a fate worse than death?
Pretty dope right? The story takes some time to get going, but once it does (and you overlook the awful CGI), this movie turns out to be really fun! The climactic battle over Ulstead is really well done and the imagery throughout that sequence is beautiful and tragic. Jolie and Pfiffer are incredible together – let’s make four more movies of the two of them at odds with each other! Fanning does a good job as well, but there’s not that much for her character to do. She’s not a helpless damsel by any means, but this isn’t her story.
Strong action, great high fantasy setting, disappointing graphics, and a slow-rolling plot put this right in the middle for me, but certainly worth the watch. Make sure you know what happened in the first movie, or you’ll be asking a million questions like I was. Or don’t worry about it and just enjoy a movie with the family.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Snack Packs
Lincoln L. Hayes is an actor and writer in NYC. Black lives matter. Wear a mask. The world is watching. Be the best you can be.