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Very little magic in new ‘Maleficent’ movie

One of the qualities of art, cinema included, is that it’s interpretive. You can see different things in art, based on your life experience and what you’re looking for. With that in mind, I’m going to look at “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” as a critique of the way the military-industrial complex enriches itself through endless war. At least then, this movie would at least offer SOMETHING interesting to think about.

That’s another way of saying “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is a snooze-fest.

“Mistress of Evil” opens with Aurora (Elle Fanning), Queen of the Moors, getting engaged to Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson). Aurora and her godmother, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), are invited to dinner with Phillip’s parents, not knowing a dark plot is about to be set in motion.

Before long, Maleficent is on the run while Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) readies the kingdom for war with inhabitants of the Moors. Can Maleficent, Aurora and their friends save the day?

“Maleficent” was a perfectly decent movie centered around Jolie’s magnetic screen presence. “Mistress of Evil” is not that kind of movie, instead substituting a hodge-podge of epic fantasy cliches and an unfocused narrative that too often takes us away from the characters we want to be with.

“Mistress of Evil” also misses a golden opportunity to give us a head-to-head battle between Maleficent and Ingrith. These are by far the two most compelling characters and the cattiness between the two of them during an early dinner scene is easily the highlight of the film. Yet the film splits them apart, sending Maleficent on a journey to discover her origin for a large chunk of the run time. This film could have been greatly improved with just one or two additional scenes of Maleficent/Ingrith smack talk.

Those are far from the only flaws. The dialogue is laughable and not in a good way. The phoniness of the computer-generated visuals is overwhelming in some scenes. Sludgy pacing makes the film feel much longer than it actually is. It’s exhausting and tedious.

If this movie has a bright spot, it’s the acting. Jolie plays the title character with a gleam in her eye, as if she’s relishing every bit of mayhem and chaos she causes. Pfeiffer is every git as good, looking like she’s having the time of her life playing up the duplicitousness of her character. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein and Fanning also turn in solid performances.

Ultimately, however, the acting can’t keep “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” from sinking. Maybe with some streamlining or a few more passes on the screenplay, the movie could have been better. As it stands, “Mistress of Evil” doesn’t deliver much entertainment value, with far too many action-packed, epic scenes being far too devoid of tension and drama. For a fantasy film, this movie is curiously not fantastic.

2 Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG


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