Maleficent is the mistress of high quality garbage. The 2014 Disney alternative fairy tale that transformed Sleeping Beauty’s villainess into a misunderstood anti hero was an entertaining colorful mess of a movie akin to a spilled bowl of Lucky Charms. The Robert Stromberg directed film was tonally scattered, combining a campy light hearted fairytale aesthetic to themes of revenge and trauma of the sexual assault variety. Yes, the film is as confused as it sounds.
However, the first Maleficent does have cinematic value. While it should never be mistaken for a good film, Maleficent is undeniably interesting due to both the film’s dark psychological themes and commendable commitment to wonderous camp.
Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil continues this dedication to delectable ham. The Joachim Ronning directed sequel follows Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) as she grapples with her adoptive daughter Princess Aurora’s coming of age. At the film’s start, Aurora (Elle Fanning) becomes engaged to the handsome Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson), and our favorite horned baddy isn’t handling the prospect of sharing her only daughter very well.
The marriage additionally has geopolitical ramifications. Humans and the bordering Moors (essentially magical woodland fairies and critters) live in never ending conflict, and the marriage between Prince Phillip and the woodland Princess Aurora could finally unite human and fairy kind. Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil’s plot thickens when Prince Phillip’s parents, the kindly King John (Robert Lindsay) and the cold hearted Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), both attach their own political ambitions to the wedding.
The performances in Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil are fascinatingly ridiculous. Nearly every prominent character is dialed in, cranking the ham to near unsustainable levels. Jolie and her high cheek prosthetics appear borderline comical as she enunciates every syllable in an elegantly devilish manner that even John Malkovich would find off putting. Fanning’s Aurora is adorably innocent. Sam Riley is charming is Maleficent’s crow turned human henchman Diaval. Ed Skrein as the violent war mongering fairy Borra is a hoot.
Pfeiffer’s cruel Queen Ingrith, however, is Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil’s unsung MVP. The evil queen may be a tired Disney trope but Pfeiffer goes to town as a colossal ice queen. Ingrith is evil, and she loves it. To her, the very possibility of exterminating the fairies brings a wicked smile to her face, and Pfeiffer portrays this vile woman perfectly.
The absurd dramatic scenarios complement the performances. Sequences like a red wedding style massacre where fairies are targeted like drunk Stark’s, a big Marvel Studios style of final battle between humans and fairies, and a chase scene involving a walking mushroom are an absolute riot. I lost count of the amount of times I smirked, and who can blame me? Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil is so conceptually ludicrous and campy that it induces smiles by default.
This isn’t to say that Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil is a good movie. Like the first film, the sequel is tonally all over the place. The beautifully vibrant color palette regularly contradicts the mayhemic violence and death presented on screen, and more importantly, the film only works when viewing it as pure 100 percent ham. Even with the dark subject matter, the hyper performances and sequences are so outlandishly comical that they can’t be taken seriously.
Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil is elevated Disnified schlock. The film is an outlandish sequel to a reimagined fairy tale filled with cartoonish heroes and villains and features a talented cast of actors and creatives who fully commit this film franchises’ most absurd elements. It’s over the top and stupid, yet it’s undeniably entertaining. Truly, Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil is a masterclass of fun and proud cinematic trash.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.