Disney owes a great debt to the success of Maleficent. The film's massive success was one of the major reasons that the Disney live-action remake is now a genre unto itself. Now, five years later, the film gets a long anticipated sequel in Mistress of Evil. Reviews for the film hit the internet this morning and while a few critics believe the sequel was worth the wait, most find the film lacking, at least in something.
CinemaBlend's Eric Eisenberg reviewed Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and gave the film a middle of the road 2.5 stars, saying that, much like the original Maleficent, the new film has some interesting ideas that unfortunately never come together into a satisfying whole.
Once again there are some interesting concepts floated – like a magical mother vs. mother showdown, and a manipulated war between faeries and humans – but none of the material sticks together.
The new film picks up five years after the events of Maleficent. Aurora is the Queen of the Moors, inhabited by various magical creatures and the home of Maleficent herself. Prince Philips has finally worked up the nerve to propose, but that means it's time for the families to meet each other. Maleficent, still largely distrustful of humans, tries her best, but things eventually go about as bad as possible, leading to the possibility of war between humans and fairies.
That's actually a pretty bare bones summary of the plot. There's actually quite a lot going on in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. Potentially too much. Slashfilm credits the movie with having lofty and ambitious goals, but feels that, in the end, the movie isn't able to live up to them.
This lofty sequel sacrifices all the storybook whimsy in favor of political intrigue and dark plots that are far too complicated to be wrapped up by a typical Disney happy ending, and end up landing with a thud.
One gets the distinct impression even from reading the mostly negative reviews that the overwhelming feeling there is one of disappointment. The performances on display, from Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Ellie Fanning, are largely praised. The movie just fails to be as good as it has the potential to be. The movie has themes, but, as Indiewire states, they're just not as important as they want to be.
Embrace the imagery and Mistress of Evil almost works on its own terms, but anyone grasping for the bigger picture will find that it often evaporates under scrutiny.
Of course, if you're looking forward to Maleficent: Mistress of Evil regardless of what critics are saying, there's probably one reason for that. Angelina Jolie as Maleficent is just a perfect piece of casting. Whatever else happens in the movie, we know she's going to be great, and USA Today certainly believes that's the case here as well.
Jolie's magnetism, plus the way she toes the line between being a fairy version of Batman and a menacing mistress of not-quite-evil-but-pretty-close, is why these Maleficent movies work.
Of course, while the majority of reviews are currently on the negative side, that doesn't mean that every critic is as disappointed with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. For all the first film's faults, it was also a singularly remarkable film if only for being a Disney-produced rape revenge story. Fans looking for similar levels of batshit insanity might be pleasantly surprised. Forbes thinks the sequel is better than the original, and no less nuts.
It's better than the first, features strong performances and goes unexpectedly wild in the third act, suggesting the unholy offspring of a union between Gargoyles, Avatar and Aquaman. (Yes, that's a compliment).
Forbes isn't the only one that is able to find something to appreciate in Mistress of Evil. In the end, the movie is supposed to be a fairy tale and logic doesn't always apply in those situations. As the Los Angeles Times states, the villain's plot in the movie is so over the top and crazy that there's a sort of beauty to it.
It's hard not to appreciate the sheer derangement of the plot that Ingrith has concocted, which is so cruel and so elaborate... as to make even the original Maleficent's machinations in Sleeping Beauty look tame by comparison.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is currently sitting on Rotten Tomatoes with a 42% score, which is far from shining, but with fewer than 25 reviews submitted as of this writing, there's always the possibility its fortunes will shift. By comparison, the first Maleficent ended up with a 54% score on RT. While the number is better, the first film was certainly not a critical darling, and that didn't prevent it from grossing three-quarters of a billion dollars at the global box office.
Having seen the new movie myself, I sort of agree with everybody here. I've always appreciated the original Maleficent for the risks that it took, even if the story never really found its footing. Mistress of Evil isn't quite as daring as the original, but neither does it play it safe. A lot of it doesn't work, but it's nice to see it try.
Currently, Mistress of Evil is tracking toward a $50 million opening weekend, which will likely be enough to take first place, but the original film made nearly $70 million in its opening weekend, so the sequel may already be falling a little behind.
Even in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a hit with fans, it will likely look like small potatoes considering that Disney is the studio that has five films that have grossed $1 billion worldwide this year alone. Even if the sequel is able to live up to the box office of the original, it's still going to be overlooked.
While most critics may not be in love with the Maleficent sequel, it is, ultimately, the box office that will take charge. If audiences want to see more stories about these live-action versions of Disney characters, then we'll almost certainly see them. We know Jon Favreau is still planning a sequel to The Jungle Book and a follow-up to Aladdin is already being considered. It's likely Disney will be watching how this movie does very closely when it comes to considering future sequels.