In the sequel to Angelina Jolie’s star turn as Maleficent, Disney again flips the script in this live-action fantasy. Here, Aurora’s (Elle Fanning) mother-in-law-to-be Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) sets up a war between the humans and the Moors, the fairy and wood creatures. Aurora and her beloved, Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson), are swept up in the conflict, and again, Maleficent plays the fall… woman.
While the story has fantastic, sprawling scenes of beautiful woods, magnificent city, and CGI special characters, the plot is the thing I’ve walked away from the theater considering. Yes, Jolie plays Maleficent coyly, dangerously, violently, in transformative love; yes, Pfeiffer plays the villain, the mother-in-law we all fear we might come into the circle of, while also seeming so … normal. But the fear – both of the Moors and the humans – it smells of modern day politics.
While Aurora wants to build a bridge over the moat to bring the Moors and the humans closer together, and even draws Philip into the role of true believer, Ingrith wants to use the fear of what the humans think of the Moors to instigate a centralization of power. She even rages on about how power comes from leading through fear, and how fear is a motivator for moving the people to action.
Suddenly, the fantasy of Disney has again put its finger on the pulse of today: today’s politics, today’s media, today’s truth-telling, today’s -isms all wrapped up in horns, wings, fairy dust, and conflict between magic and un-magic. Are we building bridges or walls? Are we opening ourselves up to what is good and possible, or hiding behind what we think we know because of what we fear?
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is in theatres now.