In the picture

November 24, 2019

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil fails to enchant; The King lacks memorability.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil**

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sam Riley, Ed Skrein, and Michelle Pfeiffer

Directed by: Joachim Ronning

After a four year absence from the screen, Angeline Jolie resumes her acting career by reprising the titular role in the Maleficent sequel Mistress of Evil, the continuation of the Sleeping Beauty offshoot that tries to present the original fairy tale’s antagonist in a more complex, sympathetic light.

(The cloyingly saccharine) Aurora (Elle Fanning) is now queen of the Moors, the enchanted enclave inhabited by magic folk, while Maleficent is the woodland’s guardian. After Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) proposes to the formerly sleeping beauty, a very disapproving Maleficent reluctantly agrees to accompany her goddaughter to a dinner hosted by her future in-laws, kind King John (Robert Lindsay) and scheming Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). Tempers predictably flare, leading to a rift between Aurora and Maleficent; the latter’s departure unexpectedly leads her to discovering her heritage as one of the last Dark Fae, a powerful race forced into hiding due to human oppression.

As war looms, the fate of the lands and its inhabitants lay at stake. But even at the most (seemingly) crucial of turns, there is an odd absence of suspense. The repercussions of what should be significant developments – including battle and bloodshed – seem lost on the film’s writers. The fantasy’s building blocks are all fairly standard and formulaic; the drama is oddly vacant. Potentially interesting ideas are thrown into the storyline but then not fully developed; the Dark Fae arc, for instance, raises more questions than it answers.

The writing and character building are the movie’s main weaknesses. Fanning’s Aurora is beautiful but dull, and utterly unconvincing as a queen. The Three Good Fairies are downright grating.

Pfeiffer’s Queen Ingrid is a caricature of an evil queen who seems to have been created simply to make the titular protagonist seem noble in comparison. Jolie’s Maleficent is often side-lined in her own movie. The actresses’ performances, though, are the film’s highlights. Jolie shines in her first live-action role since 2015 (she did lend her voice to Tigress in the third Kung Fu Panda adventure in 2016, but has not been in front of the camera since By The Sea), and it’s to Pfeiffer’s credit that her one-dimensional character seems marginally intriguing.

Disney’s fairy tale revisits, retellings, and reimagining(s) may be financially rewarding for the company, but they hardly deliver a rewarding cinematic experience to the audience. And while Maleficent: Mistress of Evil may be a very slight step up from Disney’s recent slew of abysmal remakes, it’s far from the studio’s best work.

The King**1/2

Starring: Timothee Chalamet, Joel Edgerton, Sean Harris, Robert Pattinson, Lily-Rose Depp, and Ben Mendelsohn

Directed by: David Michod

Tagline: All hail.

David Michod tells the story of King Henry V by way of William Shakespeare’s Henriad plays in The King, a historical drama loosely based on the life of the 15th century British monarch.

We meet Hal (Timothee Chalamet), the eldest son of King Henry IV (Ben Mendelsohn), when he is a wayward prince, disillusioned by his father’s reign and opposed to his war policies. Although uninterested in succeeding his father, Hal is nonetheless forced by circumstances to ascend the throne and thereby get his act together.

Despite intentions to establish peace in the region, Hal decides to declare war on France after being provoked by Louis (Robert Pattinson), son of French King Charles VI (Thibault de Montalembert), and advised to retaliate by his aides.

He recruits his trusted old friend Falstaff (Joel Edgerton) as his captain, commanding his forces to battle. The ensuing drama and skirmishes, though competently executed and generally well-acted, aren’t as engrossing as one would have hoped. The film goes about its business at a leisurely pace, portraying Hal’s journey from an irresponsible youth to a fierce leader and warrior. But even though it spends 2 hour and 20 minute primarily focused on its protagonist, The King doesn’t handle Hal’s character development with much deft and the actual personality of the new king largely remains evasive.

Chalamet, though, is very impressive in the lead role, and his brooding presence conveys the weight on the ruler’s shoulders. Pattinson, too, gives a standout performance as the Dauphin, even though he appears in only a handful of scenes, and also gets some of the most memorable lines in the script.

But the film leaves some of its supporting players – like Lily-Rose Depp’s Catherine, who wanders into the story in the last half hour of the movie – underdeveloped, and neither gives them enough screen time nor the chance to really establish their presence in the tale.

Ultimately, The King possesses a few intriguing elements, but it just isn’t as interesting or powerful as you’d expect. It fails to really stand out or leave a mark and doesn’t quite deliver the emotional impact it could have had.

Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection

Angelina Jolie's Maleficent, Timothee Chalamet's The King in focus this week