Regardless of who Skrein is playing, the women are still the main focus of our intrigue.
Ed Skrein has been cast in a villainous role in the sequel to Maleficent, Variety has learned. The Deadpool actor will join the stars of the 2014 live-action adaptation, Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning, in their next fantasy-adventure romp that will hopefully have a similar note of women empowerment running through its core.
We already know that Jolie and Fanning prove to be a fantastic onscreen duo — their chemistry in Maleficent is one of the best parts of the film. Joachim Ronning of Pirates of the Caribbean fame will be directing the sequel. But where can Disney take the fairytale next, after what was essentially the open-and-shut case of the first movie?
Maleficent screenwriter Linda Woolverton has returned to pen the latest draft of the sequel script alongside Jez Butterworth (Spectre). Woolverton is particularly known for her contributions to Disney classics in both the animated and live-action realm, having had a hand in writing the screenplays for 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland films. Maleficent 2 is well in her ballpark.
Butterworth’s involvement is where things get more interesting. Besides Spectre, he has co-written a number of acclaimed films, namely Black Mass, Get on Up, and Edge of Tomorrow. While Maleficent 2 wouldn’t be his first film in the adventure genre, Disney movies — which could almost be a subgenre all on their own — are certainly new to him. Looking at Butterworth’s work, there is some grit to his screenplays which would be a real change from the polished mythical aesthetic of the first Maleficent movie. Or indeed, any Disney live-action adaptation we’ve seen so far.
As for Skrein, he is a passable choice for a villain, mostly because he broke out into the mainstream film scene in an antagonistic role. However, Maleficent 2 will mark a shift in genre for the actor best known for playing Ajax in Deadpool. Skrein’s other noteworthy credits include leading a reboot of those Jason Statham Transporter movies, which at least made money even if critics were far from charmed by it. And then there is Skrein’s short-lived stint as Daario Naharis on Game of Thrones. He has made a name for himself in genre cinema and television. Provided he does well in Maleficent 2, holding one’s own against Angelina Jolie will be a pretty notable addition to his resume.
However, at the end of the day, Skrein’s villain still isn’t really what anyone should consider when thinking about a Maleficent sequel. After Sharlto Copley’s horrific King Stefan in the first movie, having a man come into the picture to disrupt the lives of the film’s female protagonists makes sense. Regardless, it is easy to ask “Who cares about the men in this movie?” and the question would be valid. After all, the main message of the first Maleficent film isn’t focused on “true love” in the form of a generic straight Disney princess romance. Instead, Maleficent turns that trope on its head by making romance either terribly dangerous or even at its best, actually useless. Powerful familial love is what matters between the women.
Maleficent humanizes a Disney villain by complicating her origin story and essentially giving her a revenge plot. The film is about a woman who suffered trauma and turned to the dark side as a result. Yeah, that can be problematic as hell. In the end, Maleficent does focus on the importance of making the right choices in order to move on from the trauma they’ve experienced. As per Disney’s standard operating procedure, the film is ludicrously simple when it comes to dissecting those themes, though, and the nuances of that intricate storyline fall between the cracks in Maleficent.
But that could be where the real value of a Maleficent sequel lies. Looking at the first film as a standalone reinforces the impression of a fun yet somewhat socially-conscious film for the family. Nevertheless, Maleficent set a precedent for a Disney movie that openly deals with pain and suffering. It ultimately didn’t totally deliver, so if Maleficent 2 manages to provide more insight into both protagonists and their struggles — paying extra attention to the eponymous villain-turned-hero — then that would be a true win for this series.