When Maleficent came out (a 2014 Disney movie directed by Robert Stromberg), someone conjectured that the kiss with which Maleficent awakened Princess Aurora - fallen into a perennial sleep, after pricking her finger with the needle of a haunted spinning wheel - was a sign of the director’s sympathies to the LGBT world. It was seen as a gesture to promote “true love” between two women, in this case between the historic antagonist - here redeemed - and Sleeping Beauty, Princess Aurora.
This theory, already questioned in my previous review – where I showed that the proposed love was a mother/daughter sort, not homoerotic type - was definitively denied by the plot of the Maleficent sequel (Maleficent 2: The Mistress of Evil), directed by Joachim Rønning, 2019, whose protagonist is once again played by Angelina Jolie.
A "Classic" Love Story
The story begins with the marriage proposal that Prince Philip makes to the beautiful Aurora. Philip, Aurora’s only beloved in the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, is presented here as the heir to the throne of the kingdom of Ulstead.
One senses immediately that the two are bound by genuine, sincere feelings: they intend to make their dream of love come true and unite the two kingdoms, guaranteeing everyone a peaceful future.
It’s too bad that their families are hindering this plan: Queen Ingrith of Ulstead, mother of Prince Philip and Maleficent, Aurora’s Fairy Godmother, whose famed “evilness” has never diminished, despite having stopped doing evil acts. Maleficent, hurt by gossip, wants nothing to do with Philip's family members or humans in general.
Quite a Realistic “Fantasy” Film
Even though it is a fairy tale, it shows with extreme realism the dynamics of the disagreements that arise in every day life, among families, countries, and people in general.
How many times great expectations are hindered by greed, envy, and personal selfishness! How often pride, arrogance, and resentment prevent us from focusing on the happiness of those we love and live in peace...
The writer and director of the film sheds light on this. During the welcome dinner where the families of the future spouses meet, all the hidden resentments come to the surface, and right there at the table, where the two would like to celebrate their upcoming wedding, a conflict begins. Maleficent is overcome with anger due to the queen’s taunts. She announces that there will be no marriage.
At that moment, King John - Philip's father and promoter of peace between the two kingdoms - falls into a deep sleep, as if struck by a spell. Everyone, including Aurora, believes that Maleficent cast the spell, but as the viewer will see throughout the film, evil often masquerades; things aren’t always as they seem.
Real Villains Know How to Masquerade as Good
The film has the merit of showing how the true wicked are often the most unsuspected: the calm calculators, the hypocrites who smile and kill without even using violence.
The real villains often wear beautiful clothes and jewels. They don't have horns like Maleficent. They do not explode with anger when provoked, but they act in secret, to achieve their goals. They do not become violent, but on the contrary, give kisses and hugs to buy the respect of those they want to deceive.
If Maleficent acts impulsively, someone else, evil, constructs the evil quietly and artfully.
War is Never the Answer
And yet, even when faced with such deceitful behavior, the “right” answer cannot be hatred: if the first message of the film is to not trust first impressions, the second is to never see war as a solution to evil.
Following the spell cast on the king, chaos takes over. Both the creatures of Maleficent’s world and the humans of the kingdom of Ulstead are tempted to resolve conflicts through war. However, the film shows us on several occasions how it only sows evil instead of eradicating it.
The writer is clear and reaffirms the concept in many ways: one should never give in to violence and destroy one’s enemy. Peace is possible only if one renounces to seek payback from the person who first committed an evil act.
Revenge, even if it seems to be the right answer, is actually a vortex without a way out. "Just wars" should not be fought. Alternatives to war should simply be found.
Hate Destroys, Love Builds
Aurora summarizes this message at the end of the film, when, seeing Maleficent blinded by anger, intent on killing the Queen, she blocks her and tells her: “I know you. You are not this. There is another way..."
At that moment, Maleficent’s gaze changes. It softens. She believes in her “daughter’s” words and renounces her vengeful plans. Shortly after, instead of taking the Queen’s life, she will come to give her own in order to save Aurora.
It is the revolution of love. It is the revolution that changes the story. Offering life rather than taking it away, we are victims only in appearance. In reality, we become heirs of a new world.
He who gives his life, like the protagonist of the film, cannot be destroyed by anything, not even by death. Those who choose love, those who choose light, will prevail over the darkness of death.
For Whom Is the Movie Recommended?
For its messages, the film is recommended to everyone. However, in some respects, it is perhaps more suited to an audience of adolescents/teenagers and adults than to children of a young age. Although there are no bloody scenes, some "supernatural events" are presented in a way that could upset children (like the ritual with which winged creatures, similar to Maleficent, accompany the departure of one of their mates). These elements, which could have been avoided - and some inconsistencies in the narrative - are the weak points of a film with otherwise great potential.