Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (3 stars)

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Enjoyable sequel to the dark, Angelina Jolie-fronted fairytale that adds Michelle Pfeiffer to the mix

Five years after Angelina Jolie first swooped across the screen as fairy Maleficent in Disney's dark reimagining of the Sleeping Beauty story, comes this enjoyable sequel from director Joachim Rønning. It doesn't just have Jolie – and, of course, her strikingly chiselled cheekbones and stunningly-realised wings – to recommend it, this follow-up also boasts a kick-ass performance from Elle Fanning as Aurora and, even better, an ice-cold turn from Michelle Pfeiffer as Aurora's future mother-in-law.

A half decade has passed in the realms of humans and fairies, so it seems plausible that Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson, taking over from the original movie's Brenton Thwaites) should have waited until now to propose to Aurora, as she was only 16 when they met. Their marriage will unite the kingdom of humans, ruled by Phillip's parents, King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Pfeiffer), and Aurora's land of the fey, the Moors, home of her godmother Maleficent.

However, a pre-wedding banquet between the families at King John's castle doesn't go well, and they don't even get to dessert before Maleficent gets her bad magic on and Ingrith subsequently blames her for a tragedy that befalls the castle.

Of course, you wouldn't hire Pfeiffer just to play any old royal, and while younger viewers may be shocked, it's unlikely grown-ups will be surprised when she turns out to be the baddie of this adventure. There are subplots to be dealt with – one involving the revelation that Maleficent isn't the only winged and horned creature around – but we all know the story is leading up to a highly anticipated face-off between Jolie and Pfeiffer.

Before we get to that, there are some strong set-pieces to enjoy, including a breath-taking winged creature battle and some smart escape-work from Fanning, whose Aurora thankfully doesn't wait around for her prince to rescue her. The only downside is amidst all this action some characters get neglected, including Sam Riley as Maleficent's crow/human friend Diaval, Chiwetel Ejiofor as the winged fairies' leader and even Jolie herself, who isn't on screen as much as you'd think, considering she's got the title role.

When Jolie is on screen, she gives a terrific performance that communicates so much, especially when you consider she is masked by so many make-up effects. And it's a treat to watch her square up to Pfeiffer, albeit an all-too brief one – a shame, when it's likely that an entire movie of Pfeiffer and Jolie throwing special effects and shade at each other would have made this the most fun fantasy flick of the year.

General release from Fri 18 Oct.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 58min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Joachim Rønning
  • Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Ed Skrein, Sam Riley, Harris Dickinson, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michelle Pfeiffer
  • UK release: 18 October 2019

Sequel to the Disney fantasy starring Angelina Jolie as the evil fairy.