“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” (Rated B)
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer, Elle Fanning, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Genre: Fantasy/Action, Adventure
If somehow you missed the series finale of “Game of Thrones” this past May – as you must have been incarcerated or in a coma – you’ve got another chance in theaters at the moment.
This time, though, it’s called “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”, the sequel to 2014’s “Maleficent” – the untold story of the not-quite-the-“villain” from the Sleeping Beauty fairytale.
And unlike that original story, “Mistress of Evil” is much less a warm, sweet, feel-good movie about familial bonds and love, and much more about rival kingdoms, comprised of bizarre and mythical creatures, conspiring and warring against each other – very “Game of Thrones”-esque indeed!
Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) travels to a grand old castle to celebrate the upcoming wedding of young Aurora (Elle Fanning) to Prince Phillip. While there, she meets Aurora’s future mother-in-law (Michelle Pfeiffer) – a conniving queen who hatches a devious plot to destroy the land’s fairies. Hoping to stop her, Maleficent joins forces with a seasoned warrior and a group of outcasts to battle the queen and her powerful army.
So, yes, that “Game of Thrones” (GOT) vibe is uncanny. And if you’re not a GOT fan or have never watched, please pardon the following comparisons. Pfeiffer’s wicked queen will bear a sharp resemblance to the deliciously evil Cersei Lannister. Fanning’s Aurora could be compared to one of the Stark girls, most likely Sansa. Any number of the “Mistress of Evil” warriors could be seen as any number of the GOT warriors. And Jolie’s Maleficent is clearly a mash-up of both Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons. Plus, there’s even a crow!
Some may be delighted that “Mistress of Evil” reminds them of one of the most popular shows of all time. But many more may find themselves wishing if only it were more like the original “Maleficent”. This is a colder, darker, more generic (well, generic Disney) picture lacking a lot of the heart that made the previous film special.
The most appealing aspect of the original was Jolie herself. I wrote in 2014 that Jolie “carries the entire production on her back”. She was a sarcastic joy to watch. But in “Mistress of Evil”, it feels like she’s barely in the film.
This is a problem afflicting so many sequels. The addition of new characters and storylines relegates the most beloved characters to almost back-burner status. The focus here seems to be disproportionately on Pfeiffer’s Queen Ingrith. And while Pfeiffer is great, and truly embodies the title “Mistress of Evil”, it’s still called “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”.
With so much going on – all the fighting and weird creatures, and the back story on the other Maleficent-like beings – the emphasis is obviously on visual magic. For the most part, it is reasonably impressive to the eyes. But it feels something has been lost in this transition to the “Game of Thrones” knock-off.
And thus, that focus on effects over character/storyline ultimately makes “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” even more so “almost” exactly like the “Game of Thrones” series finale. The only difference being that while it appears the majority of people were disappointed with that concluding episode, in true Disney fashion, most people will be relatively satisfied with the ending of “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”, despite its shortcomings.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.