Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Disney has found success these past years by going through their massive catalogue of classic animated films and remaking them in live action. For the most part, they’ve been big box office successes, despite not being the most critically acclaimed films Disney has released lately. 2014’s Maleficent was different from all the rest in that it wasn’t a remake, but a new interpretation of Sleeping Beauty in which Maleficent is portrayed in a more favorable light. It was a valiant effort on Disney’s part to tell a semi-original story using familiar characters. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil once again follows the same structure, and while the film looks pretty with its costumes and settings, it’s story leaves so much more to be desired.


Following King Stefan’s death from the first film, Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) has been raised by Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) in the Moors and has become their queen. Her relationship with Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) has blossomed in the time as well and pretty soon he is asking her to marry him and form a unity between his father, King John’s (Robert Lindsay) kingdom and the Moors. While Aurora is as happy as ever, Maleficent knows the hearts of men and believes something more foul is afoot. She must come to terms with her own identity as she struggles to find a way to protect the magical lands and her human daughter who has been growing more and more apart.


There’s a reason that the majority of Disney’s recent live action films have been pretty much shot-for-shot remakes of their original animated films with a few changes here and there, and it’s because Disney struggles when it comes to telling an original story, even if the characters aren’t. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a strange beast as it tries to portray Sleeping Beauty’s villain as the hero. To do so, the film must create a villain whose even more evil than that and the result is a character who is evil just to be evil with little development or motivation at all; just hate. It’s how they can get away with the bad things Maleficent does. Sure, she’s doing some pretty bad things, but look at this other character doing so much worse things. All the characters feel so one dimensional and the resulting story is boring.


At the same time, the story has no trouble in beating you over the head with its message of how we shouldn’t treat people badly just because they look different. Everything boils down to how Maleficent is treated so badly because she’s different from humans and has horns and uses magic. Same goes for the other creatures of the Moors. It’s good for the film to have this deeper subtext about race and all, but it just feels so forced in Mistress of Evil. And with the little development there is with the story and characters, any deeper message the film was trying to convey can easily fall of deaf ears. 


I will say that the design of the film is absolutely beautiful. The costumes, the sets, the look and feel of the characters; Disney is great at creating these magical worlds, and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is no different. It’s a gorgeous film and has some intriguing and creative scenes. It’s just a shame that what happens in them is so dull, and the dialogue and story pales in comparison to its aesthetic.


I would suggest that Disney should stick to its live-action remakes but lately those haven’t been that great either. Maybe they should go back to the golden-age of animation. I feel like something needs to be changed because Maleficent: Mistress of Evil continues the downward trend Disney has been on at the moment. 

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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