‘Maleficent’ sequel exceeds expectations

Disney pits two strong female characters in epic battle

The movie “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” directed by Joachim Rønning, is the second addition to Disney’s whimsical and captivating “Maleficent” franchise. It is so rare that a sequel movie is as good as the original film, and often leaves audiences just a bit disappointed for not ending a storyline on the high note that the original film brought. I have to say that the second “Maleficent” has absolutely shattered my expectations in the best way possible.

The first “Maleficent” was great — it had a dark twist on the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty where Maleficent was not the unforgiving force of evil we knew her to be from the animated 1959 fairytale. The live-action film changed the character into a relatable one. We have all been hurt in a love situation before, so the 2014 “Maleficent” gave the character a purpose for her anti-love sentiments and murderous ways unlike how the original story was always told.

The second “Maleficent” carries on much of this narrative of Maleficent, played by Angelina Jolie, being misunderstood and feared by everyone. The story picks up with Aurora, played by Elle Fanning, being Queen of the Moor as we saw at the end of the first movie, only this time we get to see her rule over the fairy folk. She deals with problems like missing fairies and people poaching the Moor creatures for experiments. It doesn’t take long, however, for Prince Phillip, played by Harris Dickinson, to pop the question and get the plot rolling.

Maleficent, upset over the thought of losing Aurora to the “humans,” also known as Phillip and his family, agrees to attend a dinner at the King and Queen’s castle so that the two families can meet. Unknown to the King and Prince Phillip, Queen Ingrith played by Michelle Pfeiffer, has an entire underground arsenal being forged from iron for her plan to kill Maleficent and wipe out the entire fairy population, so that the kingdom can steal their land and expand.

During the dinner, Queen Ingrith relentlessly provokes Maleficent to the point where Maleficent causes a scene and ruins the temporary, but uncomfortable, peace. During the commotion, the King falls under a spell that everyone suspects Maleficent has placed on him. Aurora does not believe Maleficent when she states her innocence for the King’s condition, and chooses to stay with Phillip and his family. Maleficent flees, but not before getting shot with an iron bullet by one of the hands of the Queen. She spirals helplessly into the sea only to be rescued by another man with horns who looks just like her.

Maleficent is taken to an island full of beings called the Dark Fae, who have been pushed into hiding and near extinction by humans. It is here that Maleficent discovers she is the last descendant of the Phoenix, which explains where her powers originated and why she possesses powers that the other Fae do not.

On the wedding day of Aurora and Phillip, a battle between the Fae and the Queen’s army breaks out. It is revealed that the Queen has discovered a powder from a Moor flower that makes fairies turn to dust. She weaponized it and is destroying the Moor folk as well as the Dark Fae who decide that they should no longer be in hiding. Maleficent joins the fight after absorbing power from the Phoenix, and turns the battle around.

Maleficent is headed right for the Queen when Aurora stops her and says she knows she did not put the spell on the King, but the Queen pricked him with the same spindle that Aurora was pricked with in the first film. The intimate conversation gives the queen a gap of time to shoot Maleficent with a powdered arrow, and she turns to ash in front of Aurora.

Just when all hope is lost, Maleficent transforms into a massive black feathered Phoenix and ends the battle once and for all. The Queen’s army is taken over by Phillip and they come to a point of long lasting harmony with the Moor folk and the Fae. Phillip and Aurora invite everyone to their wedding, promising safety and peace for all.

Maleficent gives Aurora away at the breathtaking wedding, where the fairies pay homage to the 1959 film by changing the color of Aurora’s wedding dress. At the end of the movie, everyone is unified under Phillip and Aurora while Maleficent flies through the skies with some of the Fae alongside her.

The visuals in this film were unmatched. I felt like I was actually in this fairytale world that was created. It was just as whimsical and beautiful as the first movie with all the colors and naturescapes so out of this world.

What I really appreciate about this film was the fact that the plot was so vastly different from the first, but still felt cohesive. The plot was not focused around a romance, or a romance gone wrong as the first one was. The first one had a “woman scorned” vibe, while this one was two strong, powerful women going head to head and neither showing fear of the other.

The plot centers around one woman who thinks the man in her life was too weak to do what was right for the people they ruled, so she takes matters into her own hands. And then the film has the other woman being an absolute powerhouse of a woman-witch fairy who would do anything for her daughter and use her powers to take down entire armies. I think that two female leads dominating in a film and the plot not being focused around the love of a man is really progressive. It certainly passed the Bechdel test, which again is pretty refreshing.

I understand that pitting women against one another is not usually progressive, but this instance was positive and clever. They did not resent each other for loving the same man, or wanting something superficial. It was a power struggle and these are roles that males usually dominate in film, so it was exciting to see these two actresses battle it out in their respective roles. Their characters were so clever and cunning, and they did not even have to bat their eyelashes or exploit their sexuality to get things done. It was awesome.

Not to mention the plot was so complex and entertaining that you sat there for two hours and felt like you just went through an emotional rollercoaster.

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” was such a pleasure to watch, and Angelina Jolie’s performance as Maleficent was nothing short of a dream to see come alive once again on the big screen. I would pay evening prices on a weekend to see this movie again, that’s how fantastic it was. I highly recommend anyone go see this movie as soon as they get the chance because Angelina Jolie alone is enough of a reason.