September 28, 2020

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Snoozy Maleficent sequel should have stayed asleep

Angelina Jolie and Michelle Pfeiffer shine, script does not

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/10/2019 (345 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

This sequel to the 2014 fantasy Maleficent is part and parcel of Disney's recent cash-grab mission to remake all its animated classics into more-or-less live action, or photo-realistic-looking movies.

But that riff on Sleeping Beauty took an enjoyably perverse twist by turning the villain of the 1959 cartoon into a misunderstood heroine in the remake. This kind of revisionism can likely be attributed to screenwriter Linda Woolverton, who, in scripting Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, turned Lewis Carroll's innocent heroine into a kick-ass action heroine.

No question: both Maleficent and this sequel benefit from the presence of Angelina Jolie in the title role. Jolie embodies glamour, both in the Vogue Magazine sense and the original, fairy-dust sense of the word. She just looks supernatural, let's face it.

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent embodies glamour. (Disney)

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent embodies glamour. (Disney)

In the first film, remember, Maleficent stole the sleeping child Aurora (Elle Fanning) from her family to ultimately raise her as her own, with the help or a trio of adorable pixies (Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple). Embracing Maleficent's magical realm as her own, Aurora emerged as one woke human.

In this follow-up, Aurora moves closer to the human realm by becoming engaged to be married to the noble, dull Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson). Phillip's idealistic father King John (Robert Lindsay) sees the union as a means of uniting both worlds in the spirit of love, but Phillip's subtly vindictive mother Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) clearly has other ideas.

So when Maleficent is invited to dine with her fellow future in-laws, the stage is set for treachery that will see the king sidelined and Maleficent exiled to a land populated by her newly discovered fairy-folk family, the "dark fae," complete with wings, horns, razor-y cheekbones and burning ember-eyes. That land, by the way, is likewise divided between the Christ-like pacifist fae Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and the warlike Borra (Ed Skrein).

Michelle Pfeiffer is up for a little treachery as vindictive mother Queen Ingrith. (Disney)

Michelle Pfeiffer is up for a little treachery as vindictive mother Queen Ingrith. (Disney)

For all its magical trappings, the movies's chief pleasures are watching Jolie and Pfeiffer basically competing to out-bitch each other. Try to imagine Dynasty set on Middle Earth.

The overall look of the film has its pleasures too, especially in the intricate design of the fairy folk in the background and Jolie's seductive sylph in the foreground. (Here's a blurb for you, Disney: Angelina Jolie puts the "romantic" in "necromantic.")

Alas, Woolverton's script and Joachim Rønning's direction reflect a paucity of ideas when it comes to elevating the material to something mythical. Instead, you've got characters employing contemporary colloquialisms such as "I saw what you did there" to enormously annoying effect.

The movie has a few too many intense scenes that may upset the little ones. Unless your tyke favours black gothwear over Oshkosh B'gosh, you might want to take a pass on this one.

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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