Warning: The following contains spoilers for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, in theaters now
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil plays out far more like a war movie than the typical Disney film. It features multiple attacks and numerous onscreen deaths, albeit fallen characters more often turn into explosions of sparkles instead of bodies full of blood or gore.
Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and the other magical beings aren't prepared for what awaits them though. That's because the movie introduces a dangerous and deadly new weapon that can be used against magical creatures and is capable of outright killing them with ease.
The Red Dust is created, ironically enough, by the captured Pixie Lickspittle (Warwick Davis) as a weapon to be used against magical creatures. It's composed of a special kind of flower that only grows out of the graves of fairies called a Tomb Bloom. The flower possesses magical properties. It's mixed with iron, which has been established in the Maleficent films to be a sort of kryptonite for fairies. The combination of the two substances is a deadly pile of dust that, if it comes into physical contact with a magical creature, it kills and reduces them to their base form. For example, a fairy is reduced to a non-sentient dandelion when it's hit with the dust.
The Red Dust was created at the behest of Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) in preparation for war with the magical beings of the Moors. Seeing the Moor-folk as the enemy, Ingrith spends most of the film orchestrating events to lure magical creatures to her kingdom. This includes faking a wedding to draw the citizens of the Moors into her clutches, while spurring the impulsive Borra (Ed Skrein) into leading the Dark Faerie on a desperate charge on the castle. Either way, it leads the magical beings to Ingrith and her massive stores of the Red Dust.
Ingrith uses the dust liberally in the ensuing battles. In the process, she and her army wipe out multiple Dark Faeries with ease. Having prepared for an aerial assault, the dust is attached to arrows for the men on the battlements and loaded into catapults to fling into the sky. But the dust has also been hidden in balloons flying in the sky to "celebrate" the wedding day. When they're lit on fire, the balloons explode and send the dust all across the sky. It's a very effective strategy, killing many and forcing the remaining Dark Faeries to withdraw and scatter, leaving them open to potentially being picked off by the soldiers on the ground.
While all of this is going on, Ingrith is also basically having a war crime committed elsewhere. After locking all the magical creatures who'd come for the wedding inside the church, Ingrith's servant Gerda (Jenn Murray) makes her way towards a massive organ. It's revealed that the musical instrument is full of the dust, so as Gerda plays, the organ's pipes shoot dust into the air that lands on the assembled magical beings. It's a brutal attempt at mass murder that's made even worse because it's all being done inside a church. Gerda is only stopped by the sacrifice of the Blue Fairy who destroys the organ, but not before a number of magical beings are taken out. The villains of this Disney film openly commit genocide, and that is wild.
Why It's Terrifying
The Red Dust is inherently a terrifying weapon, especially for Disney to introduce. So much of the studio's classic canon is predicated on the power of magic. As a result, introducing a WMD (weapon of magical destruction) is a dark direction for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil to go. It operates like the Dip from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, giving typically impervious magical creatures a weakness that can outright kill them instead of simply hindering them.
The scariest thing about the Red Dust might be its potential for future use. Queen Ingrith survives the events of the film and her hatred for magic is not tempered at all. She could easily go to another human kingdom (many of which have been established as having gone to war previously with the Dark Faeries) and share with them the secrets of the Red Dust. Even if it is difficult to produce because of the rarity of Tomb Bloom, it could give other kingdoms their own advantage against magical beings in future battles.
Directed by Joachim Rønning, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil stars Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ed Skrein, Jenn Murray, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Juno Temple and Brenton Thwaites. The film opens Friday nationwide.