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When the original Maleficent live-action film came out in 2014, it was a film that was a financial hit but was more polarizing with critics and fans. Some enjoyed this new take on the world of Sleeping Beauty, but others found it generic and tiring to turn one of Disney's most iconic villains into a misunderstood anti-hero, and the film is this big dramatic fantasy action flick. Still, it made a load of money for Disney, and if we have learned anything about this current industry, anytime a movie makes a lot of money, it automatically means people want a sequel. This is why we now have Maleficent: Mistress of Evil by director Joachim Ronning and writers Linda Woolvertons, Noah Harpster, and Micah Fitzerman-Blue. Hey, at least it didn't wait 10 years to get a sequel like Zombieland did.
Anyway, the biggest problem that you have with making a sequel to a film that pretty much did what it needed to do is how they can progress the story in a meaningful way. Well, no one can say that they didn't try with all of their might and a few sprinkles of pixie dust to go all out with making an expansive world and universe for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. They introduce new magical elements, a whole hollow-earth-style world for the Dark Fairies to live in after being ousted by the humans, and everyone involved is, simply put, putting their all into it. They even try to set the entire film's reputation about Maleficent through the veil of propaganda, and I kind of like that angle. As usual, the best part of the first film and the second film is Maleficent herself, Angelina Jolie. She owns the role, and if she ever appears again in any other live-action or animated film for some reason, I want her as Maleficent. While the CGI effects are maybe a bit too good and the film was bright in some areas, I found the CGI to be excellent. Granted, the three fairies still look awful in their designs, but everything else? It’s way better than the first film. I even enjoyed the other actors in the film.
It’s too bad that Maleficent: Mistress of Evil has wonky execution of its ideas. Say what you will about the first film, but it at least tried something super different, and that's what this film should have done. Sadly, they had to keep it tied down to the Sleeping Beauty mythos, and it drags the experience down. Not that I don't get why they chose to do this, but for a film called Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, she's not all that evil, and she isn't the main focus of the film. Like some other films I have seen, it was a sequel that sidelines its character to focus on the side characters. I still stand that I love the ideas this film threw at me, but I don't think it knew how to fully expand on them. I was never a big fan of the villain from the original film, and that's no different here. While Michelle Pfeiffer was great to see, her character was maybe too on the nose evil for her own good? It results in the other characters looking stupid or not being able to read the room when she executes her plan of genocide to the fantasy races of the film. Sure, the third act action sequence is bombastic and pretty graphic for what's going on, but I was mostly bored by the uninteresting prince and Ellie Fanning as Aurora. The writing was not just a problem with the villain and everyone around her. I found it clunky overall, because of how it was trying to expand on the dark fantasy world that is made, and it being buckled down by having to be in the Sleeping Beauty universe. They throw in a lot of clunky comedic dialogue as well, and only a few of the jokes landed. It's a bunch of style with no substance, and that's a shame.
It might be making money at the box office, but there is a reason why Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is not doing as well at the box office as the previous film. It's marketing itself as this big grand epic, and it’s epic, but it's also clunky, and Maleficent plays more of a secondary role in her sequel. In a lot of ways, I'm upset that this wasn't better, because they went out of their way to make something interesting, but didn't execute it properly. We don't get that many big fantasy female-lead franchises, and it might suck that this one may die on the vine, or give Disney some doubt into making the third film. It went bigger and tried to be better, but didn't do it in the areas that mattered most. If you are a fan of the original film, then I say go see it, but I understand if you want to wait to see it on Disney's new streaming service. This is a film I would play once, and then never again.
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