Twenty minutes into this belated 2019 sequel to the 2014 original I almost gave up on it (the Abort Button already, crikey I’ve had some week) – it was too twee, too sweet, too… well to be honest, it was too much like an animated movie. Nothing was real; the sets/locations/characters, other than Elle Fanning (and God knows she can be wooden enough to be mistaken for a Supermarionation character) everything seemed to be CGI artifice, outtakes from Avatar. Nothing, I mean NOTHING, was real: I swear it was like it was a Pixar movie. Like quite a few of these live-action Disney films, I really wonder if they should be taken to task referring to them as ‘live action’. They even insisted on one of those endless impossible helicopter/virtual camera shots sweeping over vast landscapes and huge distances, low over forests and over waterfalls and all that… ugh I hate those shots. Always pull me out of what I’m watching and put me on edge.
Thankfully we eventually reached a part of the film with real actors and real sets and the plot kicked in, because then I finally had something to latch onto, even if it was a bit weird seeing Citizen Smith (Robert Lindsay) apparently selling out as royalty and, well frankly I still felt a bit lost. Wasn’t King Henry some other actor before, as was Aurora’s boyfriend, Prince Phillip, and was Michelle Pfeiffer the Queen in the first film? Yes, they recast quite a few of the roles, and no, King Henry’s missus didn’t seem to be in the first one, weird that, or maybe I blinked and missed some explanation. Are we supposed to expect continuity problems or internal logic issues between movies? Are we supposed to care with films such as this?
Actually, it got better as it went on. Nothing too original or clever, I mean the script was fairly routine/predictable but I guess you rather expect that with big blockbusters like this: keep them simple, keep them undemanding. I might suggest that maybe they should spend some of the overblown effects budget on decent writing, but hey, you can never tell these days, maybe they did, scripts like this probably don’t come cheap even if they do sometimes feel cobbled together from DVD collections. It did, unfortunately, come across like some big overblown machine, the structure of the film, the characters, the telegraphing of stuff… I’m sure the kids love it but many of these blockbusters feel like films made by a committee, films without any individuality of vision.
But it worked, eventually working out as a worthy sequel to Maleficent, a film I quite enjoyed but never returned to- maybe I would have enjoyed this even more had I rewatched the first film beforehand (yeah, do your homework stupid), but it certainly looked like a ‘part two’ to a ‘part one’, even if that first film did originally appear to be self-contained. Some of the visuals are astonishing- Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent continues to be a remarkable creation, scary and monstrous and beautiful and somehow sexy… like a female version of Tim Curry’s Darkness from Ridley Scott’s Legend. Legend actually came to mind a few times watching this film- many of these film fantasies continue to appropriate some of that films imagery, and Ridley’s achievement in those pre-CGI days cannot be denied. But yeah, Jolie really does well under all that make-up, that can’t be easy.
And they should probably do a Flash Gordon reboot now, because the winged men of Prince Vultan’s Sky City can be nailed perfectly- the later battle sequences of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil are like a pre-vis for the end of a future Flash Gordon attack on Ming’s Fortress: I couldn’t help it, I kept on thinking “Flash!” having a bit of a geek giggle. I’m reminded of the recent Planet of the Apes films using CGI apes so magnificently; sometimes a films time comes, when the tech can fully realise the vision, you know? Maybe Flash Gordon’s time is now: an odd thing to realise from watching a Maleficent movie.