This sequel basically pads up the original conceit of lending Sleeping Beauty’s witch a more sympathetic origin story. The striking make-up/digital prosthetics are sharper than first envisioned as a replica of the angular character from the original animated film.
Filmmaker Joachim Ronning has to use up considerable skill to make this a fantasy worth seeing. There are new lands to explore, a magical castle, newer characters and the stakes have risen exponentially. A marriage proposal by Prince Philip (Harris) of Ulstead leads Aurora (Elle Fanning) and her witchy Godmother Maleficent (Anjolina Jolie) straight into the hands of Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), who intends to use inalienable differences between humans and fairies as a front to capture new territory. The film ends with an epic battle that will eventually seal the fates of Ulstead and its neighbouring fairy country. Genocide appears to be the order of play and there’s even a tiny alchemist (Warwick Davis) carrying out deathly experiments on fairies with what could constitute chemical weaponry.
The narrative puts on a grandiose show that hits the sweet spot in terms of visual majesty but is rather timid in mustering attachment. The enchantment is overwhelming. CG renderings of pixies, sentient trees, woodland critters, CGI form assists in creating the new found dark fey tribe led by a peace loving warrior Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor), innovative firepower etc. all make for a visually colourful over-the-top affect.
Jolie’s Maleficent has an imposing majesty but her expressions do appear curtailed by the digi-sharp cheekbones that make her unique. On the other hand, Pfeiffer’s conniving Queen act has a knowingly evil arch that chomps at every sinister bit quite lustily. In fact, for most of the first hour, Maleficent is barely in the frame. It’s only when Queen Ingrith lays out the challenge that Maleficent comes into her own. The time-tested fantasy film elements are all there but the balance has shifted. Evil and shades of grey dominate before good can win the day. Ronning’s treatment allows for the sense of wonder to creep in steadily. So, overall, this experience weighs in on the positive side. The target group this film is aiming at is certainly upwards of five years. There’s just too much violence (even though powdery and venomously scented) for the younger than five year olds to digest. Nevertheless this is an entertaining romp for the viscerally led.
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