An unnecessary sequel to an unnecessary remake.
About the Film
Disney’s most terrifying villain returns to the moors for this visually appealing but ultimately pointless sequel to Maleficent (2014), a live-action twist on the classic fairy tale. But is Maleficent the Mistress of Evil or just a misunderstood, creepy good guy with horns? That’s the question we are all asking. Or at least that’s the one the filmmakers want to answer.
The film picks up just as Aurora (Elle Fanning), and Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) become engaged—a love match that is also, coincidentally, a strategic political move to unite two feuding races: the humans and the fairies. But the couple’s joy is quickly tempered as tensions flare between their mothers, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). And, ultimately, that family dispute grows into a full-scale war between the two kingdoms that has devastating results.
Unlike other recent Disney remakes, this one is not merely a redo of the original cartoon. It covers new ground and attempts to put a fresh spin on well-known characters, particularly the villain Maleficent (much in the way Wicked put a spin on the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz). Unfortunately, despite solid performances from Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning and some gorgeous visual effects, the film just doesn’t deliver. The plot is plodding, the message is preachy, the conclusion seems forced, and, as a whole, the film is about as charming as Maleficent at a cocktail party.
On the Surface—(Profanity, Sexual content, violence, etc.).
Sexuality: There are a few Disney-approved kisses and some mild flirtations.
Violence: The film’s tone is dark, several scenes include violence against both humans and fairies, and there is a fairly long battle sequence near the end. Though none of the violence is gory (no blood is ever shown), it would be disturbing for younger viewers.
Beneath the Surface— (Themes, philosophical messages, worldview, etc.)
The most dominant, not-so-subtle theme of the film is the importance of peaceful coexistence between people who look and act different from each other. This message is, of course, an important one. We live in a messy, complicated society in which people often allow bigotry, prejudices, and fears to drive a wedge between themselves and others. In the film, the hatred between the humans and the fairies compels characters to commit cruel acts of violence. In the end, however, they realize that they are better off if they live in peace with each other and don’t allow their differences to divide them.
The problem is not with the theme—which is a good one—but with how it is executed. In the span of a few scenes, and with very little prompting, the two sides evolve from carrying out total warfare to becoming more peaceful than a knitting club with the Dali Lama and Mother Theresa. This rapid transformation seems a little abrupt, even for a Disney princess movie.
2. Strong Female Leads
Strong female characters drive this film, with the men appearing primarily in supporting, subordinate roles. Even Aurora, who is arguably the most traditional female character, is motivated as much by her politics as by love. In this sense, you can definitely sense some 2019 feminism seeping into the film.
This film is an unnecessary sequel to the first live-action remake…which was also unnecessary. It tries desperately to put a new twist on a classic story, but ends up with something that is charmless, dark, and largely forgettable. In fact, Disney would have likely been more successful had they stayed truer to the original cartoon and produced a live-action remake more akin to Aladdin and The Lion King.
Recommendation: Too scary and unengaging for kids. Not enough substance for adults. You’re better off re-watching the classic Disney cartoon (In the daytime. With all the lights on. Because, let’s be real. Maleficent is down-right terrifying no matter how old you are.)