We all know the tale of Sleeping Beauty. A dark fairy cursed a princess to prick her finger upon the spindle of a spinning wheel and sleep forever. A prince battled against dark forces and a dragon to bestow true love’s kiss upon the princess and thus wake her. Then they lived happily ever after… Or so we’ve been led to believe.
Now, we know from the previous Maleficent movie, that wasn’t quite how it really went down. Maleficent did curse the princess, but it was actually her own motherly love for the child that released the girl from her enchanted sleep, not the prince’s kiss.
But somehow, in the human Kingdom of Ulstead, that little detail has been deliberately omitted. No wonder most folks wrongly believe that Maleficent is the mistress of all evil.
Well, it’s time for that to change. Philip and Aurora are going to be married. Philip’s kingdom of Ulstead and Aurora’s fairy kingdom of the Moors will be united. And Maleficent is coming for dinner, courtesy of a magnanimous invitation from Philip’s mother, Queen Ingrith.
Maleficent isn’t particularly thrilled about Aurora’s choice in husband but she is grudgingly willing to make the effort. She practises niceties and even covers her horns with a shawl for the highly anticipated dinner with the King and Queen.
However, everything that can go wrong quickly does. In a blink, fragile affection morphs into open hostility, old prejudices erupt, and joyful talk of impending nuptials turns to grim talk of war between the two kingdoms.
The war that unexpectedly explodes between the humans and fairies is characterised as a tragedy born of fear, mistrust and prejudice. And as each side unleashes violence on the other, all of those tendencies get reinforced. That’s the backdrop for Maleficent: Mister of Evil’s main theme: the importance of love and peace, both of which are strongly emphasised throughout the story.
After all, Maleficent’s maternal love for Aurora is what saved the young woman from an eternal slumber in the first film. And in the end, Maleficent recognises how much Philip loves Aurora and consents to walking her daughter down the aisle at their wedding.
Aurora and Philip’s love for one another is what unites their kingdoms in peace. Philip’s father, King John, is especially proud of this feat since he has been trying to broker peace for years.
Aurora’s love for Maleficent also plays a huge role in convincing Maleficent to choose peace instead of war. Maleficent also meets another key character who tells her that if she can love and raise a human as her own daughter and have that love reciprocated, then there is hope for peace.
Philip and Aurora share several kisses, including a passionate one after she accepts his proposal. Queen Ingrith attempts to wake her husband with true love’s kiss. The morning after Aurora and Philip’s wedding, Maleficent leaves but says she’ll return for the christening and winks.
A pixie creates a red powder that kills fairies on contact. He then tests it on a dandelion fairy, destroying the creature but keeping the dandelion. Soldiers trap a multitude of fairy creatures in a church and use the red powder to kill them (although like the dandelion, we simply see them revert to their plant forms). One fairy sacrifices herself by flying into the source of the powder, her reverted flower form blocking it.
When the dark fairies attack Ulstead, they use vines to grab, throw and trap soldiers. The soldiers use their iron weapons and bombs made of the red powder to fight back. Scores of fairies turn to ash upon contact with the powder. Although we don’t directly witness any soldiers’ deaths onscreen, they are implied since several humans are picked up by flying fairies and dropped from great distances.
A woman uses a weapon to shoot an iron bullet at Maleficent, badly wounding her and causing her to crash into a river and then go over a waterfall. A woman is thrown off a tower and screams as she falls (she is rescued before she hits the ground). Peasants arm themselves with pitchforks against Maleficent—those who aren’t screaming and fleeing her ominous presence, that is.
OTHER NEGATIVE ELEMENTS
Aurora repeatedly compromises her values to match those of Ulstead and the queen. She consents to wearing the queen’s gaudy and extravagant wedding gown rather than the simple one made for her by the fairies. She asks Maleficent to cover her horns with a veil to make everyone feel more comfortable. These choices eventually lead a spurned Maleficent to (temporarily) disown her adopted daughter. It isn’t until Philip reminds Aurora that he fell in love with the girl from the forest that she realises how badly she let Maleficent down by agreeing to all these changes.
As was true in 2014’s Maleficent, love is this sequel’s saving grace. It stops Maleficent from reducing the kingdom of Ulstead to a smoking pile of rubble—even when the dark fairy feels she’d be completely justified in doing so.
But this is no whimsically delightful fairy tale. This film’s happily ever after conclusion only arrives after scores of characters—fairy and human alike—have met nasty ends.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil echoes the darkness in Disney’s original Sleeping Beauty. We see characters betrayed by loved ones. We witness prejudice between different races. Despite its strong redemptive themes, this sequel’s intense-but-sanitised violence might still be too much for sensitive viewers.
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This review was adapted from Plugged In: the entertainment guide your family needs to make family appropriate decisions through movie reviews, book reviews, TV reviews, and more.