The most violent movie since “Joker?”
That would be “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” a Disney fantasy allegedly for children, but a sure way to scare tinier tykes into premature therapy. Because even the Joker didn’t lock pixies and fairies in a church and…
Featuring production design, costumes, makeup and effects that would turn J.R.R. Tolkein, or at least Peter Jackson, green with envy, it’s built on a story borrowed from every lazy fantasy typist since Tolkein and C.S. Lewis — “WAR! Between the magic folk, the fairies, Valkyries (called “Fays” here), woodland sprites and humans!”
The mayhem promises genocide, chemical weapons and Michelle Pfeiffer taking on Angelina Jolie, even though Jolie’s title character is reduced to a glorified, winged cadaver of a supporting player in this sequel.
Where’s the wit of the first film, an upside-down take on “Sleeping Beauty” where the “Evil Queen” got a bum rap?
“He’s very kind,” Maleficent is told of her goddaughter’s suitor.
“Kind of what?”
Maleficent is counseled to smile, “Show a little less fang” when she meets the humans who gave her that bad reputation. Well, comedy was never the Oscar winning Jolie’s forte.
The story, about the human Kingdom of Ulstead making peace with and “joining” the creature Kingdom of the Moors via marriage, is built on a romance that lacketh spark or warmth. Elle Fanning’s Queen Aurora smiles and smooches on Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson), but they won’t make anybody forget “The Princess Bride.” Or even its many inferior imitations.
Pfeiffer is the obviously-scheming Ulstead queen who baits her future in-law over dinner, brings down the wrath of Maleficent and triggers a war.
Chiwetel Ejiofor is a fellow winged-one, a genetic relative of Maleficent’s “Descended from the Phoenix” folk.
Warwick Davis, required casting for ALL fantasy films, plays an alchemist who carries out deathly experiments on fairies.
The script forces director Joachim Rønning to overwhelm the screen with forest and swamp creatures, although thankfully, we don’t pause to admire and identity these “fantastic beasts. The damned movie would be a Potter-length four hours long if that happened.
You’ll recognize Juno Temple and Imelda Stanton in fairy form, with all manner of snout-nosed frog-pigs, tree creatures EXACTLY like the “Ents” of “Lord of the Rings,” glowing flowers a la “Avatar,” all packed into a digital dreamscape of gardens and streams, castles and a aeries.
It’s impressive for a minute or three. But “Maleficent” could make you long for the days when folklorists like old friends Tolkein and Lewis spent lifetimes studying legends, myths and folk tales before building their own.
“Maleficent” sounds, looks and feels as if it was contrived out of an algorithm, a heartless commodity formed from other heartless commodities.
The endless on-and-on-it-goes finale grasps for emotions it only earns by being so very appalling in the build up to it.
One doesn’t feel redeemed or revived after enduring this “Maleficent. Just relief.
MPAA Rating: PG for intense sequences of fantasy action/violence and brief scary images
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein and Robert Lindsay.
Credits: Directed by Joachim Rønning, script by Linda Woolverton, Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster. A Walt Disney release.
Running time: 1:58