Warning: Mild spoilers for “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” follow. If you haven’t seen the film, proceed with caution.
“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” may be set in a world based on a fairy tale full of magic and mystical creatures, but it grapples with very real political issues including refugees, respect for the environment and authoritarian regimes.
Set five years after the events of “Maleficent” (2014), this follow-up film shows how Aurora (Elle Fanning) has grown into her role as Queen of the Moors, where she happily lives with her overprotective godmother (Angelina Jolie), fairies and other enchanted beings.
Unfortunately, Aurora’s future mother-in-law, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), harbors a secret hatred toward all magical creatures. And as the details of Ingrith’s true feelings and evil plans are revealed, the relevance to current real-world issues is hard to ignore.
“There will always be parallels to today’s society, and I think it was important for us to make the commentary,” said “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” director Joachim Rønning. “Especially about man versus nature, and also about being intolerant of others and fearing people — or in our case the dark fey — because they’re not like us.”
Despite being the main villain of the movie, the filmmaker explained that it was important to make sure the audience understood that Queen Ingrith is a mother whose husband and son believe they are a part of a normal, functional family. Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) and King John (Robert Lindsay) love her.
But secretly, she’s been sponsoring research to create biological weapons that would help her eradicate all the fairies and other magical creatures that live in the Moors. She also made sure humans remained suspicious of Maleficent, despite how she had saved Aurora with her love, by spreading false stories about the events.
No reference to any real person, living or deceased, is ever made, but it’s difficult not to draw connections with numerous world leaders, including — at times — the current U.S. president.
“As we were developing the Queen Ingrith character, it was interesting to see how important it is for authority and power, and how dangerous it is for a person in power, to control the narrative,” said Rønning. “That’s what Queen Ingrith is doing. She’s controlling the narrative of our story in regards to creating the fake legends about Maleficent, creating an enemy.”
He added: “In today’s society, I think that it’s very interesting to see that by the touch of a button or by, you know, a little tweet, you can control the narrative, and it’s become so important. There is the parallel in that sense.”
It’s not just Queen Ingrith’s actions that offer commentary about current events. It is also the situation around the dark fey, who had long been persecuted by humans.
When Maleficent meets the dark fey and learn she isn’t the only one of her kind, it’s on an island that they have all been exiled to after humanity forced them out of their various homelands. The dark fey are refugees.
“When Maleficent first comes to the nest of origin, the nest where all the dark fey have been driven to, it was important to show it almost like she was walking around a version of a refugee camp,” said Rønning.
Of course, because “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” is set in a fantasy world, justice prevails without anybody really dwelling on the significant body count and damages caused by the movie’s massive climactic battle.
If only resolutions in the real world could be that uncomplicated.