As we learned in the first Maleficent film back in 2014, the "villain" isn't always who they seem. In Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, that theme is once again highlighted — only this time around, Maleficent has possibly met her match.
Spoilers for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil below.
We return to the world of Maleficent five years after we left it with Aurora living in the moors amongst the fairies before her world is turned upside down with a marriage proposal from Prince Phillip. Of course, Maleficent isn't happy to hear the news. Enter: the meeting of the parents. Maleficent and Diaval join Aurora for dinner at the castle, which is where we meet Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), a woman who is outwardly so sweet that she must have secretly evil intentions. Of course, Maleficient immediately sees through her facade while Aurora decides to trust her new mother-in-law. (What choice does she really have here?)
As the film continues, Ingrith's disgusting plan to basically commit fairy genocide is revealed, and Maleficent seeks to stop both her and a group of dark fae who want to (rightfully?) destroy the humans.
At the Los Angeles press junket for the film, SYFY WIRE FANGRRLS sat down with Ed Skrein (Borra), Harris Dickinson (Prince Phillip), Sam Riley (Diaval), and director Joachim Ronning to discuss which of the film's two terrifying women they'd rather have on their side and what themes resonated most with them personally.
Ingrith and Maleficent are both pretty scary in different ways. Which one would you rather not have as your enemy?
Ed Skrein: That's interesting because they're two different propositions, aren't they? Obviously, morally I wouldn't want to have Ingrith as an enemy because she represents everything that is kind of divisive about human nature, but I wouldn't want someone with magic powers [to be my enemy]. So I don't really want either of them as my enemy. I think I'll stick with keeping Maleficent onside.
Harris Dickinson: It's hard, isn't it? Because having your mom as an enemy is never the ideal situation, but having your mother-in-law as your enemy is also not an ideal situation. I think Phillip kind of doesn't mind if he goes against his mum because her views are a little bit skewed from what he believes. But going against Maleficent is probably not his prerogative in this film, and it's certainly not something I'd want to do.
Joachim Ronning: Queen Ingrith. I would not have her as an enemy. But at the same time, it was very important for Michelle Pfeiffer to portray her also as a mother. So at the end of the day, it's really a story about these two mothers going up against each other. Two parents, basically. And that was a great journey, and a great process working with Michelle Pfeiffer, and discovering Queen Ingrith, because she's also Prince Phillip's mother, and we needed to make her believable as a mother because then he becomes believable, and the king as well, none of them could have caught on to her. So that was a great process, discovering that with her.
Sam Riley: I'd have to say [I'd rather have] Angie, or Maleficent, rather, [on my side] because I know that behind the fierceness there's a loving person. I haven't seen the film, but Michelle seems pretty brutal, poisoning her husband...
There are a lot of different themes in the film. Which one resonated with you the most?
Dickinson: I guess that the idea of a mother-daughter story and the idea of the distance between them and having to sort of go through that... and it's like with Aurora's character, she's sort of coming to consciousness of what it means to be a young woman, and what it means to make her own choices, and what it means to be apart from her mother, and have to sort of figure out who she is. So I think that's something we can all relate to. And that's something that I certainly have been through with my own parents. So I guess that one came through for me.
Riley: Well, I am rather a believer in tolerance than divisive politics, and I think that's one of the messages that we've had in this movie: from the first one, I agree that true love can be from a mother to a daughter, it doesn't have to be the prince waking up the princess. That true love comes in all shapes and forms. But I think we're living in a very divisive period of time, politically, in Britain and in America as well. I live in Germany, and I know that, during this period of time, when we start making a race or a people the scapegoat for our problems, that that's very dangerous. And untrue, generally speaking. So I support the message of acceptance and tolerance of one another, but also the message that one doesn't have to conform, necessarily, rather try and be true to yourself and, in turn, accept other people's nature.
Skrein: I really relate to the notion of otherness and the reaction of otherness and the sort of questions of how people react to others and fear people that do not look like them. I grew up in a very multicultural, diverse community and loved it, celebrated, I still live in the same community and it's wonderful. My favorite thing when I go home is all of the different cultures that coexist together respectfully on the whole, in East London. I thought that was normal when I was growing up and then I began to travel and saw how it's absolutely not normal and coming over here, in America, I see some very clear divides, culturally. And that saddens me because I think people miss out on the joy of multicultural diversity, it's a wonderful way to live and we can learn so much from otherness, culturally and intellectually.
So I love that undertone that runs throughout, I think that's why also why the ending felt so satisfying to me. And I hope that we open up those conversations, I hope that parents and children come out of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and have these conversations about attitudes towards otherness. And I hope that we can kind of reimagine the constructs that we've put up, not just about fairy tales and about princesses and characters, that do affect our views of ourselves and others, sometimes in a negative way, but also the way that we view otherness in the world in a time of closing borders and a real fear of otherness. I think hopefully we can open up these debates and conversations which can lead to hopefully a more inclusive future. And that's why it's so wonderful. The age group that this movie is aimed at, these guys are the ones that are going to be able to take the conscious, progressive, positive baton and run with it. It's a beautiful thing.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is in theaters today.