Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Review | Escape to the Movies


The discourse around the live-action Disney
remakes trend has mostly been dominated by how so many of them are either so similar
as to feel pointless or if different at all only in terms of minor details to address
so-called “plot holes” or politically-dated story points that it’s easy to forget
that one of the most successful (if also most divisively reviewed at the time) was the first Maleficent;
which solved the problem of Sleeping Beauty’s villain being more interesting and memorable than any of the good guys in that story by making her the main character… …Yeah know, and also turning the story into a gonzo
alt-history retake on the material whereby the villainess was actually a wronged woman with
(extremely!) sympathetic motivations, “witchcraft” was the new-agey neo-pagan Earth Magic good
guy side while humanity was more or less the industrializing villains a’la Avatar, the
king was a scumbag villain, Prince Charming was dumbass who didn’t really do anything
and got dragged around and moved into place by the female stars, the real love-story
turned out to be a surrogate mother/daughter one between Maleficent and Aurora and oh yeah
– and the actual narrative reframed the whole thing as
the Disney version of I spit on your grave i.e. a militant feminist rape-revenge fantasy. [crying out] [screaming] $758 million worldwide box office grosses
later – really? …even with all the…? And people were still surprised by the blonde that shot rainbows at people? Okay. …the “Mistress of Evil” is back to find
out why the sequel is called that now that she’s – clearly – the hero. That’s not even a joke, that’s basically
the plot: Despite having saved two kingdoms, killed an evil king, rescinded her curse,
avenged herself, turned to the side of good and installed human foster-daughter Aurora
as human queen of the faerie-populated Moors; somehow the traditional story of “Sleeping
Beauty that’s spread across the neighboring kingdoms between films still positions Maleficent as the
villain and she’s kinda hacked off about it. Plus, Prince Charming (or “Philip”) is
still hanging around with eyes on the kid and she doesn’t hate him but she doesn’t like
him either. Now it’s kinda tempting to call this character-regression, so that Maleficent can still be bad and fun, but I kinda dig an ostensible family movie that’s willing to admit getting justice
against the one person who screwed you over doesn’t magically fix your psychosis. But anyway, Philip and Aurora want to marry and
bring peace between the human kingdom and the Moors, which is tense because there’s
a “fairy poaching” situation going on and Maleficent has big suspicions about that she’ll now have to work on tamping down a little while meeting Philip’s royal family… which is
(unsurprisingly, or there’d be no movie) goes disastrously wrong largely thanks to
antagonism by our new villain for the piece: Michelle Pfeiffer as Philip’s not-so-secretly
Wicked Queen Mother. Yes, having defeated “The Patriarchy”
in the first film (and, evidently, “Subtle Allegory” in the development process…) Maleficent’s nemesis this time around is,
effectively, “internalized misogyny;” here personified by Pfieffer as an alabaster
empress with a literal allergy flowers and fairy-dust who seethes from the sidelines
at her peace-seeking war-averse husband and son, builds a private fairy-genocide army
in secret, fondles a collection of swords, spears and crossbows with fetishistic envy
and keeps Jenn Murray’s diminuitive, icy yet doe-eyed androgyne psychopath “Gerda”
cowed and onhand as her personal pit-bull …like I said, not subtle! Now believe it or not, this is the business that’s
in the trailer and really only covers a long-ish first act, which closes-out with one of the
would-be principal characters cursed Sleeping Beauty-style and Maleficent framed for the
…be-cursing and having to get the hell out of dodge; after which… well, I’m not really sure if the “revelations”
and new stuff that crops up and forms the bulk of the second and third act of the film
is necessarily “spoiler territory” so much as “nifty new stuff they didn’t really
market yet…” …but suffice it to say once the “everyone
thinks Maleficent is bad again” plot point drops into place everything takes a hard left
turn into a big expansion of the narrative, geography, mythos, lore, scope… a big info-dump
of new business about what Maleficent actually “is” and a literal whole new world’s
worth of characters and concepts to be played around with and feels a bit like The Mouse
saying “If everything has to be a Universe, fine, figure out how to make five or six other places
to go too just incase”, but mainly provides for a big multi-tier action heavy Act 3 for everyone
who wanted more monster stuff out of the first one (and also serves to throw a bone to
various characters who took the brunt of the “only Maleficent gets to be useful” gags
in the original.) Now, obviously, this could never be as much
of a “Where the hell did this come from and how did even Jolie convince Disney to release
it??” shocker as the original, “Mistress of Evil” is barely even halfway into it’s
bugnuts depths before one has to concede that, take it or leave it, love it or hate it,
this is without a doubt Disney’s most gloriously weird franchise: A female-led, wickedly-subversive
dark fairytale with a “Frazetta-does-Hot-Topic” high fantasy aesthetic dominated (occasionally
in the most suggestive sense possible) by Jolie; flashing a blinding vampire smile of
ivory fangs and blood-red lips as the ultimate 21st Century Goth Goddess. And she is, indeed, still the star of the show – even
if, like the first film, Maleficent is often offscreen for longer stretches of time than
a title character would otherwise be expected to be. It’s one of the unusual but compelling things
about how this property has been designed – other than when she’s facing some sort
of directly-proportional threat, Maleficent is more of an observing presence or “Greek
Chorus” of her own story than central active player unless she opts to be; which helps
to keep her appropriately mysteriously but also makes sense in the narrative context
of a severely traumatized character who almost never gets close to others. And that’s good because it lets the supporting cast breathe and develop (and it turns out there’s a lot of supporting cast in this),
but less so if there isn’t something too develop – it’s a bit disappointing, considering
how much of a spectacularly hateworthy bastard Sharlto Copely got to play as the villain
in the first one, that even though Pfeiffer is allowed to invest The Queen with a lot
of subtext, like a lot… the actual text as to why she’s “doing bad guy stuff” turns out to be
kind of a letdown – or maybe they just figured “Well, it’s not like we can go darker
than the ‘mutilation-by-metaphor-rapist’ guy, so maybe just take a whole other tack this time?” I dunno – this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea,
but the first one turned out to be a lot more people’s cup of tea than anyone expected
and, honestly I didn’t really “get it” the first time, but then I saw it again and I wondered, how’d I miss that? And I’m not sure this one really holds up
as much. But it’s ambitious as hell, everyone is
acting their asses off (and Jolie is beaming from another goddamn planet) and all the
talk about how big movies in general and this studio specifically doesn’t specifically take enough
chances or make different, risky stuff even when they’ve got a property they know will
turn profit no matter what? …ya can’t really say that this is one of those, someone is swinging for fences here. And, once again this without needed to see it twice…I really dig it. 7 out of 10 – okay, now bring back Gargoyles
and Black Cauldron you’re so into your spooky stuff.

Posts Tagged with…

Reader Comments

  1. Michael Mills

    Maleficent was the only Disney remake that was at all interesting. I'm not surprised that the people working on the sequel did a decent job either.

  2. JoeRingo118

    nothing about this new maleficient is evil, thats the problem. they turned a cool villain into a quirky angelina jolie with a funny hat. The king, the prince, the fairies, all of them rendered either evil or incompetent if not both.
    Hell, maleficient isnt even a dragon anymore.

  3. JackgarPrime

    Huh, interesting. I've not been interested in the first one, but as a franchise, I do find it interesting that it's moving along the way it is.

  4. Bluecho4

    Oh no, they roped Gerda into this? They low-key badass of fairy tales who got shafted by Disney when they turned The Ice Queen into Frozen, and divorced her from her own story? NOW Disney wants her back, but as a supporting antagonist?

    * Sigh *

  5. Tristan Johns

    I didn't like the first one, I'll be skipping this one. I would only comment that I'm just now realizing it's October and I forgot about the trailer after it was released during the summer.

  6. Gareth Beeblebrox

    The 7/10 thing is a running joke right? like he calls everything 7/10 because of the stupid 4 point scale that reviewers do? Right?

  7. Amber Pawn

    Oh Bob… Yes… Gargoyles and The Prydain Chronicles…. Let's run a hero's journey franchise with Mouse Money… Sadly it may not be Potter because it doesn't have the anyone could be here aesthetic that captured imagination… But it could definitely work.

  8. MariaVosa

    You had me at Michelle Pfeiffer Disney.
    But seriously, why are you remaking perfect movies like Aladdin and Lion King when BLACK CAULDRON IS RIGHT THERE!!!??

  9. Infinite Octopaw

    I’m glad at least one of the remakes are trying something interesting with the story. I’m sick of this shot for shot remake lazy bs. I actually prefer this to the actual sleeping beauty. As a kid I found the classic movie dull and boring with a cool villain.

  10. Master Clockwork

    There is something wrong about a straight white dude accusing a woman as having "internalized misogyny." Oh well, that's an incel for ya.

  11. Raphael De La Ghetto

    I typically watch Bob’s reviews after I’ve seen a movie but when I’m on edge about whether or not to see something, I have to skip to the end. He gives away too many details.

  12. Shades

    Yes comparing Maleficent to fucking I Spit on Your Grave because of a rape allegory and ISPOYG is the only rape/revenge movie on the planet. I r movie smart!

  13. bigshow771

    The first Maleficent was a prime example of Disney executives taking exactly the wrong message from a film's success. The live action remake of Sleeping Beauty was a big success because it, in essence, turned the story on its head and told you that what you knew was bullshit. Even while adding a lot of subtext to the original. Disney execs saw "Remake all the animated films!"

  14. EbberDeeMills

    I’m not even bothering with this movie.
    The first one was horrible in that Maleficent didn’t really do anything except be somewhat competent. All the other characters were either unbelievably stupid or turned villainous for the sake of making Mal look better than she actually was; the three faeries that were keeping Aurora safe were effectively turned into the Three Stooges.

    Even more damning is the fact that her entire story was essentially “solved” at the end. The wings that were cut off by Copley as part of the rape allegory were just popped back on good as new and she was flying around like nothing happened, thus making the entire plot of the film from the curse placed on Aurora to the giant battle at the end completely pointless.

    So yeah. I was excited for the movie enough to buy a ticket and was on board for the first half, then it took a detour into really bad writing.

  15. Pokerface

    It always bugged me that her name starts out as Maleficent. The word means evil, you can't just ignore that. Why couldn't she have been named "Magnificent" and then the people start calling her Maleficent when she goes evil? That would make way more sense.

  16. Ray Palmer

    Disney should just concentrate on funding Marvel and Pixar and leave making movies themselves because all they are going to do is make bad movies. But the fact is they won't do that, because even though these movies are garbage they earn money. Hence, all we can do is ignore.

  17. Paradox Acres

    1st movie: Maleficent claims she was the True Victim all along..!

    Also 1st movie: Maleficent stabs a newborn baby with Magic Cancer then spies on Underage Girl behind the bushes like a pedo

  18. darkblood626

    Angelina Jolie seems born to play the role of Maleficent. It a shame they won't actually let her be the real version and drop all this political crap.

  19. Isaac 3567

    I love the Black Cauldron book (that entire series really was a childhood favourite) so I am totally down with a Maleficent-esque take on a remake of it

  20. Rhino 'n Chips

    The only bit I remember from Malificent is the fact that the plot twist was literally the same as Frozen only done worse, and that when I realized the twist was coming, I got wiplash shaking my head in a PLEASE NO motion, begging the movie not to go there.

  21. Batman1016

    I find it interesting that the critical score for this film, as it currently stands on RotTom, is nearly exactly the same as the final critical assessment of the first movie: around 50%. I'll be intrigued to see if this one gets a similar fan-reaction disconnect (70% – basically what Bob here just gave it), which would certainly indicate that Disney is at least maintaining consistency with this, eh . . . "franchise," for lack of a better term.

    Also, side note: right there with ya Bob, @#$% YEAH GARGOYLES!!!

  22. Sharky McShark

    So this is a dark and gritty re-imagining of a family friendly property that follows an iconic villain through their origin story and frames them semi-sympathetically when before they were simply one dimensionally evil?

    So why does Bob love it when Maleficent does it, but hate it when Joker did it?

  23. JDizaster

    BOB! Why would you let me hope, nay dream, even for a second, that we could get a Black Cauldron remake!? Now my mind is turning, and nothing short of Prydain as the Mouse's answer to GoT will satisfy me. Thanks.

  24. Isy Eskenazi

    What I don't get is why is Maleficient considered evil. The only thing I can induce is because of her looks and name, or because of propaganda supposedly spread by the king in the first movie because of fear. This explains why the characters consider her evil, but not why WE should consider her evil. She's not, just stylized that way. There is no redemption because she has nothing to redeem for. The only thing she does is take revenge because of being attacked, and she takes revenge only on the one who wronged her (Stefan), No one in the kingdom suffers because of her.

  25. Angus Wallace

    bob i love you but please stop making a big deal out of females in lead roles there not weird or subverve now and havent been for a while and before you bring up captin marvel most people just didnt like the look of brei larson in the role. most people were alredy expecting a feamale captain marvel because she is the more popular verstion

  26. ArcaneAzmadi

    Holy shit I never realised how much I wanted to see a live-action reimagining of Gargoyles until you suggested it.

    Also on the list of things I want to see: Angelina Jolie's Maleficent vs Cate Blanchett's Hela in a Gothqueen-off.

  27. doovders

    Live action Gargoyles has potential sure and would certainly would fit better into the whole "Can we make more than one film from this?" attitude prevalent in the industry and particularly Disney. But Black Cauldron, oh my days. Yes, yes and yes again. Doesn't have the same serial potential maybe but damn would it make for one hell of a one off.

  28. Pol Subanajouy

    Maleficent is the only live action Disney franchise bothering to stray away from the old source material, which is why I even give it a chance.

  29. Sambou Jaiteh

    Me, yesterday: I’m so f**king sick of Disney live action remakes! They made like one good one; they should make more like Maleficent!
    Me, right now: THEY MAKE ANOTHER ONE OF THESE?!?

  30. Katherine Alvarez

    …I’m not going to see it, because I didn’t like the first one (I have a good reason, I swear), but now I’m wondering what could’ve happened if all the remakes actually learned from Maleficent? Like, could you imagine Cinderella if they actually went into the child abuse?

  31. Daniel Heflick

    I'm divided on this one. On the one hand, everything you said in this review sounds interesting as hell. On the other hand, I can't help but feel like this is the metaphorical head of the recent barrage of Disney live action remakes coming all the way back around to eat the tail of what started this whole trend.

  32. Pie Master

    100٪ agree about them needing to bring back Gargoyles. Since it has been confirmed for Disney + maybe that could generate enough momentum for them to actually do it.

  33. Tim Chesnut

    I second the Black Cauldron. I felt like there was a good movie in there the first time around… they just didn't quite find it. Do it again, but better this time!

  34. Ye Lov

    I liked the first Maleficent, not spectacular to me but fairly good even though I didn’t agree with some creative choices.
    But I’d really like to see them make live action remakes of more underrated Disney movies like Treasure Planet or Black Cauldron maybe.
    This movie feels like they’re trying to make an anti-hero franchise, with more origin stories, lore and big action battle sequences. Another movie bitten by the ‘cinematic universe’ bug.

    The new heads of Disney are sitting on a gold mine yet chose to make weird underwhelming choices.

  35. Rahsaan Footman

    Gargoyles brings up an interesting point of the streaming wars. There is going to be a serious talent crunch in the coming years. I'd love for Disney to pick up Weisman and Paur for a Gargoyles revival, but Greg's working with WB on Young Justice. Paur is probably postponing retirement for a couple of projects. It will be the case that even if the studio is willing the talent is spread out.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *