Wow, did Maleficent really come out five years ago? I wrote favorably about that first film back then, so I was in fact looking forward to the sequel, even as I find that I am very much over Disney's live action remakes (The Lion King was the last straw for me, and I think I'll only manage to watch Lady and the Tramp on a day when I'm sick in bed, if even then). The thing is, Maleficent isn't exactly a retelling--it's its own story.
The first film was the story of a woman who was hurt by a man. The cutting off of her wings was essentially thematic of rape. Her inner world turned dark and she made the outer world around her dark, too--until she was able to find hope and love again with Aurora as her daughter. What I love about that first movie is that it went in with a very specific story and theme that they wanted to tell. Substance and not too much fluff.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil brought in a tad more fluff. It flowed more like an average movie, not as streamlined as the first. However, it still brought in a wonderful expression of that same theme from before.
The first movie showed Maleficent's turning point. She decided to choose love over vengeance--goodness over evil. We saw her choice. The second movie showed the, What now? A choice generally isn't something we choose once and never again. A choice that has to do with lifestyle and beliefs is a choice that we make every day. And no matter how good our choices might be, there will still be outside forces that try and attack us and get us to go back on our choices.
Maleficent meant well. She truly had come to love Aurora. But she was still in pain, still unable to trust, and still unable to believe that she and Aurora would be better off dwelling on forgiveness over vengeance. Queen Ingrith did mean ill against Maleficent--but the greatest ill that Maleficent almost let her make against her was to make her like her. Maleficent nearly (and did for a time) meet evil with evil. That helps no one.
She learned by the end how to take that pain and finally let it go, finally stop letting it control her actions. Yes, Stefan hurt her and stole from her, but she learned that she was still her own person, capable of choosing for herself who she wanted to be. He did not choose for her; he did not make her into a creature of pain and agony and revenge.
I would feel remiss not to mention Diaval's role. The crow has turned into Maleficent's counselor and guide. He was her wings and now he's her translator, not just telling her what's going on but also suggesting to her what it all truly means and how she ought to react to it. And the new outfit suited him quite well, too.
So while I would call this movie more wandering and less focused, it remained enjoyable and the theme remained stellar. Don't believe what people tell you that you are. You are what you choose for yourself; that is your choice, not theirs. Don't let the pain of the past steal from your present or your future. If they say that you are the Mistress of Evil, then let that mean that you command the Evil to leave, not that you promote the Evil. Make the good choice and live the good choice every day.