It’s frustrating how Maleficent’s ending is copied from Disney’s Frozen—again, the prince smooches the princess who can only be saved by true love, but it doesn’t work, because he doesn’t love her. Again, a long familial bond means more than some rando dude the ingénue barely even knows; when Maleficent kisses the sleeping Aurora (chastely, on the forehead) she wakes up, to everyone’s surprise. And again, for the slower/younger members of the audience, another character reminds us all that this is a real act of true love. The message that platonic love between two women can be as strong and meaningful as romantic fairy-tale wish-fulfillment love is powerful, and it felt daring the first time Disney did it. But here, it just feels like rewatching the end of one recent movie awkwardly inserted into the middle of another.
And more frustrating still is the way Disney keeps relying on tropes it’s single-handedly turned into grating clichés. In any Sleeping Beauty story, the Disney Death is built inextricably into the package, so that one was unavoidable. But was it really necessary to do the Disney Villain Fall too?