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‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ a misfire of a money grab

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There’s something oddly comforting about an unnecessary sequel. Sure, it would be nice if Hollywood would devote time, energy and other resources to original creations, but let’s be real – that ship has sailed. At least unnecessary sequels are honest – they want your money and don’t really care about anything else.

This brings us to “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” which continues to spin out the story of Sleeping Beauty to increasingly insane ends. If you didn’t know that it was based on the classic tale, you’d have no idea. Seriously – any resemblance to the source material is coincidental at this point.

Here’s the thing: this is a Disney joint, so there’s plenty of production value at work here. There’s no denying that this is a visually lush and aesthetically interesting film – there’s a lot of eye candy. Unfortunately, that candy comparison can be extended – this bright, shiny treat is a feast for the eyes, but absolutely devoid of any sort of nutritional value. It is as empty as it is attractive.

Aurora (Elle Fanning, “Teen Spirit”) is now the Queen of the Moors, ruler over the many magical creatures that live in that realm. She is also the object of the affection of Prince Philip of Ulstead (Harris Dickinson, TV’s “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance”), who wants to make her his bride. Not only are the two in love, but their union would unite their kingdoms.

But it isn’t that simple. See, Aurora’s godmother is Maleficent (Angelina Jolie, “Kung Fu Panda 3”), the powerful dark fairy whose inherent mistrust of humanity has not been tempered by her love for her goddaughter. And while Philip’s father King John (Robert Lindsay, TV’s “Bounty Hunters”) is enthusiastic about the union and what it entails, his mother Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer, “Avengers: Endgame”) is less enthused about her son’s new mother-in-law.

A “meet the parents” dinner quickly goes awry; circumstances quickly escalate, leading to Maleficent unleashing her dark power and ending with King John under a curse that renders him asleep and unable to be wakened. Sounds familiar, yes?

Maleficent is driven away, only to encounter a hidden world packed with other dark fae; for so long, Maleficent believed herself to be the only one, but she meets Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor, “The Lion King”), a leader in this new land who seeks peace with mankind. On the flip side, there’s Borra (Ed Skrein, “Alita: Battle Angel”), a warrior who seeks to exact vengeance upon humanity.

Meanwhile, Aurora and Philip continue moving toward their union, but there are sinister plans afoot. People on all sides have agendas of their own to advance; the couple-to-be are merely pawns in the grander game. As the truth is dragged from the shadows into the light, it becomes clear that very few of the players involved are the people that they seem to be.

And that’s … pretty much it?

One of the things you’ll notice about “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is how relatively little screen time Maleficent has. Seriously – one gets the impression that Jolie basically showed up on set for a week and they had to make do with whatever they could get in that limited time. Kind of weird for your titular character to feel largely removed from the primary action of the movie, but whatever – it’s not like anyone involved was all that concerned with little things like plot or narrative coherence.

The story – such as it is – meanders hither and yon. The pacing is inconsistent, with far too much time being spent on meaningless minutiae and far too little on key story elements. Character motivations are muddy and a staggering amount of action relies on the stupidity of the participants. There are entire subplots that could be neatly excised with little impact on the overall narrative. It’s staggering, really, when you take into account the talent in the cast, but hey – beach houses don’t build themselves.

Yeah – this movie is kind of a hot mess. But really, what else would you expect from a money-grubbing sequel directed by a dude (Joachim Ronning) who directed an even-money-grubbier sequel (“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”)?

Angelina Jolie gives the performance equivalent of a shrug. She’s so clearly not into what she’s doing; every line she delivers might as well be yawned. Her entire stint in this movie reeks of contractual obligation. It doesn’t get much better, either. Michelle Pfeiffer disinterestedly gnaws at the scenery throughout. Fanning is blandly inoffensive, which frankly makes her a highlight. Dickinson’s a big blank. Ejiofor seems to understand how ridiculous it all is, but can’t do much about it. Ditto Skrein. Throw in notables like Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple getting CGIed to the point of barely being recognizable and you’re left with something that’s more sad than anything.

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is two hours wasted. There’s very little of any redeeming value to be found here aside from the occasional interesting visual. Otherwise, it’s basically an uninteresting slog, a mishmash of garish CGI, disengaged nonsense and thin narrative. It would seem that the only thing anyone involved with this movie really cares about is separating you from your money.

The real evil is whatever corporate edict that led to this thing getting greenlit.

[1 out of 5]

Last modified on Tuesday, 22 October 2019 09:26

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