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EUR Review: Angelina Jolie is Magnificent in New ‘Maleficent’

Maleficent - Angelina Jolie
via Twitter @Maleficent

*Though the sequel “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” comes five years after the 2014 original, it proves one thing. Namely, that good things – and great movies – come to those who wait.

It also proves another thing: That Angelina Jolie is one of the few bona fide movie stars we have today.

Jolie has taken a character that could have seemed like a trite villain and instead, over the course of two movies now, given us a villain with depth, heart, motivation, viciousness, elegance and the capacity for redemption.

Which may lead some to ask, after what seemed a complete character arc in the first film, how is Maleficent still a villain – and how is this not a rehash?

Well, as the new film opens, Aurora – the former “Sleeping Beauty” who is played wonderfully again by Elle Fanning – now reigns as Queen of the Moors while her adoptive mother, Maleficent, serves as it’s protector.

Despite all her heroic actions five years ago and since Maleficent is still deemed a villain by the neighboring kingdom of Ulstead, home to Prince Phillip (a serviceable Harris Dickinson).  The more mature Princess Aurora still has a dash of her young whimsical self and that soon attracts Prince Phillip. They fall in love, he proposes and she accepts.

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While this may seem typical fairy tale stuff, it is here Jolie really gives Maleficent majesty and depth. She wants the best for her “daughter”, but recalls how she was betrayed by someone professing the same feelings and warns Aurora against the union. Jolie has Maleficent run through the gamut of emotions in a few minutes time – we see her personal pain, her fear, her concern for one she loves like her flesh and blood. In the end, Aurora tells Maleficent that having dinner with her future in-laws will be a chance for her to not only see how much Prince Phillip and she love each other, but that it will also serve to show the leaders of Ulstead that Maleficent is far from the fearsome monster their people believe her to be as well.

The ensuing dinner scene is one of the highlights of the film, as Aurora callously has Maleficent to cover up her horns. We see the old anger and hurts flash on Jolie’s face and then ease as Maleficent agrees in order to make her adoptive daughter happy.

It is obvious, though, that the idea that Aurora may be ashamed of her as she is strikes Maleficent deeply. It is a wound that is exacerbated when the dinner with Phillip’s parents, King John ( Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) starts to get tense. Ingrith attempts to provoke Maleficent by giving her iron tableware – which would hurt her to touch – and mentioning the sleeping curse she placed on Aurora.

Watching Pfeiffer and Jolie go back and forth is remarkable to behold. It is a true treat seeing two extremely talented actresses playing complex, powerful, characters.

By the time Ingrith cruelly dismisses her relationship with Aurora, Maleficent seemingly curses King John into an eternal slumber  before fleeing without Aurora, who disbelieves her claims of innocence.

The old Maleficent is seemingly back – or is she? As we see Jolie fly away we are left to wonder if what we have seen is true – or if the extremely intelligent, cunning Queen may be responsible – or even someone else. Jolie and Pfeiffer are at the top of their games in this film, both seemingly willing to do whatever it takes to protect those they love and their kingdoms. It must be noted that Chiwetel Ejiofor  also does a fantastic job playing the important character Conall. But this film will be remembered as one of Pfeiffer’s more memorable performances and an Angelina Jolie in all her glory, as she makes the rest of the film crackle.

In the end, she gives us a Maleficent that is always in danger of slipping back to the dark side no matter how hard she fights others and herself – and who could be doomed no matter which route she ends up taking. This is compelling stuff. The script could be a bit tighter. But that is a small quibble.

This a fantastic film with a majestic lead.

Grade: A

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