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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURESAngelina Jolie (Maleficent), “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO COURTESY WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURESAngelina Jolie (Maleficent), “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.”

Movie Review: ‘Maleficent’ deficient

Friday, November 1, 2019 by Paul Willistein in Focus

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is a hodgepodge of movies that have gone before: “Lord of the Rings” (2001), “Where the Wild Things Are” (2009), “The Hobbit” (2012) and, of course, “Maleficent” (2014).

The Maleficent character is based on Charles Perrault’s fairy tale (1697) and Walt Disney’s animation theatrical feature film “Sleeping Beauty” (1959).

Angelina Jolie is back in the title role of Maleficent, fairy godmother of Aurora, again played by Elle Fanning.

Harris Dickinson replaces Brenton Thwaites from the first “Maleficent” movie as Prince Philip. New actors include Chiwetel Ejiofor (Conall) and Michelle Pfeiffer (Queen Ingrith).

Pfeiffer has a major role in screen time, seeming to be nearly equal that of Jolie. Queen Ingrith opposes the marriage of Aurora and Prince Philip.

There are more details in the plot, which are revealed late in the movie. No spoilers here, though.

Since the plot is rather simple, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” has a lot of filler material, most of which is visual. The dialogue is spare and not particularly impactful or memorable, save for two essentially backgrounder monologues by Queen Ingrith.

Providing a lot of the visuals to pad out the movie are images of fairies, trolls and other creatures from the Moors, a magical forest presided over by Maleficent. The fairy characters look like escapees from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Several statuesque trees that amble about owe their origin to Groot in “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014).

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” weaponizes the creatures of the Moors and the humans defending the castle of Queen Ingrith and King John, providing for an extended battle scene that is very stereotypical. Scenes depict the castle of Queen Ingrith and King John as bigger than Orlando, Florida’s Disney World.

Much of the film is rendered in dark tones of blue, green and gray. Scenes toward the film’s conclusion finally lighten up lighting-wise. Symbolically, we understand that light overcomes dark. However, the film suffers overall because of the many scenes that are under lit. Note: this might have been because the movie was seen in the 2D format for this review, rather than 3D.

Joachim Rønning (director, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” 2017) directs competently from a screenplay by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster (screenwriters, “The Motel Life,” 2012; TV’s “Transparent,” 2014-2016) and Linda Woolverton (screenwriter, “The Lion King,” 1994; “Alice in Wonderland,” 2010) from a story by Woolverton.

Computer-Generated Imagery (CGI) apparently enhanced Angelina Jolie’s cheekbones, which are as sculpted as the fenders on a 1959 Buick. It’s a distraction. Even Jolie’s shoulder blades appear to have been put under the CGI knife. Her bizarre appearance includes horns that rival the antler rack on a bull moose. Her mask-like face results in an nearly expressionless performance.

Maleficent flies around an awful lot in the film. No broom, broom here. Maleficent flies faster than an F-15 Strike Eagle fighter jet. No need for rockets or bombs, either. Maleficent summons powers that reduce castles to cinder when she shape-shifts into the Phoenix, a flying monster that would give Godzilla a run for its money.

If Jolie as Maleficent is mostly posing or flying about, Pfeiffer as Queen Ingrith is statuesque, as in a statue. Her regal bearing serves the character, but her static and stoic performance doesn’t serve the film.

Fanning is the one bright spot in “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.” When she’s onscreen, the movie is compelling.

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” summons up emotions in the final 15 minutes or so when Fanning and Dickenson clinch and embrace. The story of Princess meets Prince is, at its essence, pretty basic. All the rest in “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is CGI-enhanced mayhem. However, had the basic story been held to, you’d have only a 30-minute film.

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” should be enjoyed by pre-teens and fans of the first “Maleficent.”

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested Some material may not be suitable for children. Parents urged to give “parental guidance.” May contain some material parents might not like for their young children. for intense sequences of fantasy action-violence and brief scary images; Genre: Fantasy, Adventure; Run time: 1 hr.,58 mins. Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” was filmed in Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire, England and locations in England.

Box Office, Oct. 25-27: It was a battle of cinematic evil-doers, as “Joker” danced back to No. 1, with $18.9 million, $277.5 million, four weeks, including two weeks straight at No. 1 and a third week at No. 2; narrowly sending “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” down to No. 2 after one week at No. 1, with $18.5 million, $65.4 million, two weeks.

3. “The Addams Family” moved up one place, $11.7 million, $72.8 million, three weeks. 4. “Zombieland: Double Tap” dropped one place, $11.6 million, $47 million, two weeks. 5. “Countdown,” $9 million, opening. 6. “Black and Blue,” $8.3 million, opening. 7. “Gemini Man” dropped two places, $4 million, $43.3 million, three weeks. 8. “The Lighthouse” moved up seven places, $3 million, $3.7 million, two weeks. 9. “The Current War,” $2.7 million, opening. 10. “Abominable” dropped four places, $2 million, $56.8 million, five weeks.

Unreel, Nov. 1:

“Terminator: Dark Fate,” R: Tim Miller directs Mackenzie Davis, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Science Fiction Action Film. Sarah Connor and a cyborg protect a young girl from a new Terminator.

“The Irishman,” R: Martin Scorsese directs Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in the Biography Crime Drama based on the killing of union boss Jimmy Hoffa.

“Harriet,” PG-13: Kasi Lemmons directs Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr. and Joe Alwyn in the Biography Drama about Harriet Tubman and her escape from slavery.

“Motherless Brooklyn,” R: Edward Norton directs himself, Bruce Willis and Fisher Stevens in the Crime Drama about a private detective in the 1950s who has Tourette’s Syndrome.

“Arctic Dogs,” PG: Aaron Woodley directs the voice talents of Anjelica Huston, Jeremy Renner, James Franco and Alec Baldwin in the Animation Comedy about Swifty the Arctic Fox who uncovers a dastardly plot.

Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes