A Former Beauty

It’s jarring to consider Maleficent: Mistress of Evil originated from Sleeping Beauty’s care free simplicity. This sequel injects border control, a divisive leader, bigotry, and hatred into a political overflow, barely disguised by fantasy touches.

Michelle Pfeiffer’s Queen Ingrith is the catalyst. She curses her own husband, laying false blame on Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), then inciting a war over resources. How familiar this all seems. “Another weak king speaking of tolerance and civility,” says Ingrith, downplaying attempts at peace. Soldiers then follow orders to their death until convinced otherwise. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil takes place almost entirely around a fantasy castle, yet mocks American military action while doing so.

Never mind Disney’s lore – Maleficent was an established an anti-hero prior; here she’s unquestionably sound, a heroine willing to sacrifice and save those who should be enemies. It’s a logical transition, with Jolie playing the role spitefully to still suggest something sinister. Like in Maleficent with King Stefan, the villainy is elsewhere, Pfeiffer sniveling and egotistical in her power grab.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil involves the real world so inappropriately as to distract

As years pass, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil will stand as a mainstream statement to this time, this place, and values. Indie cinema does this thoughtfully; Disney bloats it with heavy digital effects to an absolute excess. Whatever grabs the eye will do. Liberal, anti-war mainstream cinema exists – even Terminator: Dark Fate tackled immigration – but Pfeiffer’s ferocious performance leaves Maleficent: Mistress of Evil begging for an iota of subtlety. It’s evident who she is for anyone paying attention.

Fear divides the two kingdoms. One is filled with fairies and adorable goblin creature… things. It’s lavishly colored and strikingly lit. The human side exists in dim light, soaked in grays to further differentiate things. That’s standard fairy tale design, here taking things to an aggressive extreme when listening to actors play this script. Hating the glowing, lush forest? That’s impossible – unless evil and gray.

This is where we are: Sleeping Beauty taking contemporary politics into battle. It’s not a matter of agreeing or not. Rather, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil involves the real world so inappropriately as to distract rather than approach with caution.

Jolie and Pfeiffer share a dinner scene that’s a genuine delight, both holding their hatred toward one another. The looks, the sarcasm, the spite; that works as these two performers duke it out verbally. It’s funny, akin to a Thanksgiving disaster. Only now, their barbs invoke reality, suffocating the fantasy.

Video

Filmed digitally, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil comes to 4K with few issues. First is noise, at times detracting as it hovers over the screen. This is notable before Jolie’s “return” before she descends from cloud cover. A few close-ups introduce this artifact too. Wider visual effect shots struggle to capture clean definition. Edges lack precision, and the imagery looks lightly sharpened.

The rest holds, some weakened black levels (in spots) aside. Tight detail brings the make-up’s nuance home; as an Oscar nominee, that’s important. Costumes define too including extravagant jewelry worn by Pfeiffer. Armor stands out too. The format’s added resolution pays off when asked to handle complexity.

Disney’s HDR pass pushes heavy highlights. Sunlight glows and filters through, emboldening contrast. Metal glints, lava, and glowing magic spells combine in a delightful showcase. Color too, vividly saturated to liven up greenery. During the finale, bright pink dust explodes in the air. Mixed with rainbow-winged fantasy characters, it’s spectacular.

Audio

Credit where due – Maleficent: Mistress of Evil offers some improvement in the Disney/Dolby Atmos debate. Range offers deeper lows than other recent releases, from wings flapping to explosions. There’s actual force behind the action. While still pinched, overall dynamics sit better even without volume correction.

This release pays attention to the Atmos soundstage. Magic swirls around, flying creatures sweep through each channel, while catapults launch their ammo overhead. An enveloping effect sustains for the full runtime, a mix high on ambiance outside of action, and stellar when in it.

Extras

Pithy bonuses this time out, all of them residing on the Blu-ray. Three featurettes barely crack 10-minutes total, worthwhile only for their set footage. A short VFX reel, two minutes of outtakes, music video, and two deleted scenes end this one.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

While the first film twisted Sleeping Beauty lore into something unique, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil boils over into a modern political debate.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 45 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: