Pictures are what the new movie, “Maleficent, Mistress of Evil,” has to offer its audience. Kids who liked “Maleficent,” the first movie in the series, and some children who were too young for the original are going to find it a feast for their eyes.
The movie can go on for 10 minutes with no dialogue. Or maybe it’s with no memorable dialogue. At any rate, its characters tell us little — just enough to get us from picture sequence to picture sequence.
Just about the only substantial speech in the picture comes at the beginning of the last reel. Michelle Pfeiffer, who is playing the Queen of the humans and the mother of Prince Phillip, is asked to explain the origins of all the evil in the story. Even by fairy tale standards, it is not a particularly convincing pitch.
But by that time, the viewer is committed. They’ve already spent nearly 90 minutes watching the title character (Angelina Jolie) grit her teeth and accept that her adopted daughter, Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning), is going to marry Phillip. By the way, he is played by Harris Dickinson in this movie, not by Aussie Brenton Thwaites, who originated the role.
We’ve watched all the magical creatures of “The Moors” (by which the movie seems to mean “the forest”) emerge and play. We’ve zoomed around the wasteland at night, following the incursion of thieves hired to grab a mushroom boy fairy, and, perhaps from another source (this isn’t clear), some little antennae, the like of which will later be harvested from a fairy graveyard.
A scientist dwarf across the river at King John’s castle uses the antennae (but not the mushroom boy or a little later captured hedgehog girl) to make a puce powder. This substance kills magical beings. So the dungeon lab is part of the Queen’s armory.
The King (Robert Lindsey, who acts up a storm) is a man of peace who welcomes the marriage of his son to the heir of the neighboring kingdom. The Queen just doesn’t like magical beings, neither the plush toy types who live around Aurora nor the prong-horned, winged beings who later save Maleficent more than once.
They are built like her, with points on their shoulders and curved blades of cheekbones. But she is capable of kinds of magic they don’t do. They have been hiding downstream, from humans and from Mally.
When Maleficent is blamed for the King’s sudden unconsciousness, she is shot with an iron bullet. The winged and horned guys are all allergic to iron the way the Queen is to flowers.
Wounded then, our anti-heroine falls into the river and is saved by those “Dark Feys” (a slightly ironic reference to Yiddish). Meanwhile, back at the castle, preparations for Aurora’s marriage to Phil go on. But she discovers what actually happened to the King.
And about then, the fairies are all lured into a church for gassing. Several instances of self-sacrifice follow.
The action at the climax may go on a little too long. But, then, the film doesn’t want to stop it. If it did, we might expect some dialogue. Dialogue sometimes seems to be getting lighter and lighter in the movies as they are made more and more for foreign audiences.
But, then, dialogue is the logic of a story, its sense. A fantasy like “Maleficent, Mistress of Evil” (what a misnomer!) can be more pictures than text and still be generally satisfactory.
Fantasies may not require so much telling. Still, if a movie is going to go on for two hours, maybe it owes us more story than this one has: Fairy hater provokes war. Magical creatures are saved by sentiment. That’s not a lot of tale even for a fairy tale.
“Maleficent 2” does give us lots of pictures, though. And they look real fine.