FlixChatter Review – Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil was at once my most anticipated and most dreaded film of this year. Disney has a long history of over saturating the market with quickly produced sequels, prequels and even midquels of films that have been successful. These sloppily made seconds have left me with a bad taste and a severe distrust of Disney sequels.

I loved the first Maleficent and feel rather protective of it. In a pre-me too and pre-times up world, Maleficent brought us face to face with the disturbing reality of our culture and wrapped it up in a way that would be understandable and affecting to young children. The violence during the wing scene is as confronting as a Brothers Grimm tale and just as truthful, exploring the ideas of betrayal and assault, and the subsequent psychological toll, as well as the ideas of consent, choice and ownership over one’s body. Although it was widely panned as an over produced mess, it addressed some heavy issues of our time and for that reason is still very valuable. Would the sequel do the same?

Directed by Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Rønning, Mistress of Evil has an amazing cast of Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning, with Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Lindsay playing Phillip’s parents with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein, and Sam Riley in supporting roles. Distractingly, Brenton Thwaites as Prince Phillip has been replaced by Harris Dickinson due to scheduling conflicts.

Like its predecessor, this film is a bit of a jumbled mess. It starts off with with Philip proposing to Aurora and we are dragged into rom-com inspired dinner scene. In a painful exchange Aurora asks Maleficent to cover her horns and lessen parts of herself that make people uncomfortable. Although watching Maleficent practice her smile and tone is meant to be comedic, it is also a very pointed assimilation. Aurora and Maleficent are expected to change in order to fit in.

Despite her best efforts to be a cordial guest, Maleficent is as impulsive and quick tempered as ever. Queen Ingrith gets the fairy queen so upset she flies the castle, ultimately seeks refuge in a hidden community of dark Fey. The last of their people, they come from all over the world.

Like Maleficent, they have been cast out and marginalized. Although overreaching, Disney is transparent in their intention that the Fey are meant to collectively represent all marginalized groups where Aurora, Phillip, Ingrith and other “humans” in the film are meant to symbolize  western colonial/imperialists. A narrative that is all too easily resolved by the end.

It is here with the Fey that a new side of Maleficent comes to light. A more introspective, open and vulnerable character emerges. She often sits alone, her wings engulfing her in a protective cloak; standing as a champion of morality while the world would yet again cast her as the villain.

Ejiofor as one of the Dark Fey leaders

This film follows the first, challenging the idea that women must be at odds with one another and can share deeply intimate bonds. Maleficent and Aurora relationship breaks boundaries and is constantly under attack by patriarchal forces hiding in a legend (Sleeping Beauty) that is also a lie.

At the same time, back at the castle, King John mysteriously falls ill and in reaction, to their king’s sudden demise, the entire and kingdom is armed and ready to wipe out the fairy kind. SPOILER ALERT [highlight to read] This genocide is particularly frightening to behold as one watches a room full of creatures ravaged by a poisonous powder. Thus begins the war movie phase of our film that culminates in a completely unnecessary epic CGI-rich battle (similar to those found in Marvel movies.

The socio-political themes in Maleficent are a bit mature for this film to address, which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t make the film fit together well. Nevertheless, I think it raises important issues and creates a space to safely have discussions with children. I really appreciated that Philip and his fathers are cast as allies and work to fight the stigma and spread love and understanding. I think the representation of their relationship, love and accountability as males and leaders in their community in itself is a huge paradigm shift in cinematic feminism.

– Review by Jessie Zumeta


Have you seen Maleficent: Mistress of Evil? Well, what did you think? 

Question of the week – Which movie/tv genre(s) have you decided to stop watching?

Image courtesy of forum.kodi.tv

Happy weekend all! I haven’t done this question-of-the-week post in a looong time. Well, my pal Ted sent me an email about this topic and I thought it’d be a good one to pose to all you fine movie lovers out there. I’m hoping this would be an interesting discussion point as we’d all have different answers to this question.

So let’s start w/ Ted’s thoughts on the matter…

I constantly hear or read people complaining about certain movie genre that they’re tired of seeing and promise they would stop watching that certain genre from now on. Of course the genre I’m referring is superhero and there are some people who said they’re sick of seeing these larger than life characters hitting the big screens every other months or so. Personally I love this genre and will keep watching it until it dies out, but I hope/wish studios would churn out more quality products in the upcoming months/years.

The genre that I actually quit watching is horror. I used to love this genre, when I was younger I would watch all of the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and tons of other horror films during Halloween month and would always go see any new horror film opening each weekend. But as I got older and the introduction of torture porn in the late 90s and 2000s, I was turned off by the countless gore and torture scenes. I don’t see any entertaining value in watching someone gets their hands or legs cut off or just torture in the most painful way possible. Now I do love The Walking Dead TV show but the show is more about human dramas dealing with post apocalyptic world than just zombies tearing into people’s fresh.

TWD

Another genre I quit watching, well it’s not really a genre but I hardly pay attention to independent films anymore. When I was a young inspiring filmmaker, I would attend indie film festivals all over the country, been to Sundance a couple of times. But as the years gone by, I found that many of these so-called “indie” films to be more pretentious and just plain bad. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great indie films that were made within the last several years but I don’t want to waste my time sitting through crappy low budget films just to find one or two good ones.

And here’s two cents…

Well, in response to Ted’s comments, I’ve never been a fan of horror films. Of course there are exceptions, in fact I’m still curious about The Babadook as I heard it’s more of a psycho horror than a violent, bloody genre film. I completely agree w/ Ted that I have no stomach for gore and torture and I really think that far more often than not, it is absolutely gratuitous.

But in terms of indie films, given that I’ve been on an indie kick this past month thanks to MSPIFF and other press screenings, that’s one genre I’ll never get tired of. In fact, just this week alone I saw a couple of indie gems on the big screen!

I think just like big budget films, there are as many bad apples as there are good ones. But with indie films, even if it wasn’t successful, they seem to be more character and story driven than big-budget ones. Even if they’re not perfect, I’d still get something out of most indie films I watch, whilst that’s not the case on bad big-budget movies.

I’d say that the genre I’m not as keen on watching anymore is the one a lot of people might share… and that is comic-book movies! Now, I used to LOVE comic-book movies, I mean one of the first Hollywood movies I saw as a kid was Superman: The Movie, and there have been countless of them since that I enjoyed. But lately I’m just tired of ’em that I can’t even watch the trailers anymore. As with anything, an excessive amount of anything is never a good thing. Alas, this is one genre that seems to be impervious to critics and box office numbers. Yes, I’m still excited for Captain America: Civil War next week because I LOVE the first two films. But I’m not really that excited to see X-Men: Apocalypse or Suicide Squad later this year.

CivilWar

I don’t even know if I’ll see those on the big screen to be honest, the press screening for Apocalypse has been scheduled but I’ve passed on it. I don’t even pay attention to Marvel Phase 3 movies and whatever schedule DC’s got cooking to counter that (apart from Wonder Woman that is, for obvious reasons). I’m also sick of those endless cash-grabs that gargantuan studios *cough* Disney *cough* keep churning out, i.e. Maleficent 2 (???!??!) I sincerely hope my darling Sam Riley would say no to playing Diaval again in this pointless sequel, as much as I enjoy watching him in all the hilarious promo interviews!


So what about you folks? Is there a movie genre(s) that you’ve decided to quit watching?