MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL – Review by Susan Granger

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Five years after the revisionist “Maleficent” (2014), lovely Aurora (Elle Fanning) is now Queen of the Moors, surrounded by fairies, sprites and woodland creatures that adore and adorn her. It’s taken awhile, but Price Phillip (Harris Dickinson) of Ulstead has finally proposed marriage.

Still distrustful of humans, the dark sorceress Maleficient (Angelina Jolie) initially forbids her adoptive daughter’s union but, eventually, she agrees to accompany Aurora to a celebratory feast at the palace of King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer).

Smiling, small talk and enforced cordiality ceases when Queen Ingrith coldly announces that she now considers Aurora to be her own daughter, inevitably incurring haughty Maleficent’s fanged wrath.

An added element is the introduction of the Dark Fey that – over the eons – have been driven into the caverns beneath the ocean. Their vulture-winged, goat-horned leaders – Conall (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Borra (Ed Skrein) – are debating geopolitics and whether to wage war against the humankind, accompanied by misunderstood Maleficent.

As it turns out, Maleficent is not really evil, just alienated, while Aurora’s scheming, manipulative adversary hides her brutal malignance beneath glittering silvery glamour, Swarovski pearls and diamante crystal.

Scripted with far too many complications by Linda Woolverton (“Maleficient,” “Beauty and the Beast”) with Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”), its muddled mythology is helmed by Norwegian director Joachim Ronning (“Kon-Tiki,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”).

Great credit should go to the inventive collaboration among production designer Patrick Tatopoulos, costumer Ellen Mirojnick and special effects makeup/prosthetics designer David White.

Most memorable among the fantastical CGI creatures are the Aurora’s devoted pixies – Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), Thistlewit (Juno Temple) and Flittle (Leslie Melville) – Queen Ingrith’s goblin weapons maker Lickspittle (Warwick Davis), along with Maleficent’s raven companion Diaval (Sam Riley).

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Maleficient” Mistress of Evil” is a sumptuous 7. “At the end of the day, if there’s one word I want this movie to be about, it’s kindness,” declares director Ronning.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.