There’s a thin barrier between the Maleficent movies and the Jupiter Ascending-level of delightfully corny fantasy greatness, and that barrier has a name: Prince Phillip.
Yes, he is “classically handsome,” but he’s also kind of boring, too gullible, and so generally nondescript that he could be replaced by a different actor between movies and you wouldn’t even notice. (He was! You didn’t!) Obviously, Aurora has made the wrong choice. She should be dating the crow man.
Disney canon may demand that Phillip be Aurora’s one and only, but the Maleficent movies have already strayed so far from the animated classic that inspired them that it doesn’t feel like anyone would riot over canonical accuracy if Aurora had a slight change of heart. Her love for Phillip makes sense in terms of stereotypical teenage horniness — she’s had no other humans in the vicinity for years, and then suddenly a boy her age comes along — but not necessarily in terms of the kind of fantasy that Maleficent is.
Maleficent and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil are fantasies that cater to the viewer. How else to explain the sudden appearance of more dark fae than as an answer to all of us who watched the original Sleeping Beauty or the first Maleficent and considered cosplay for even a split second? The dark fae, all sporting different kinds of horns and wings, practically seem built for us to project our own personal fantasies of flight upon them.
Which makes it unfathomable that Prince Phillip — a far cry from the Sleeping Beauty version, who at least has a song — would get chosen over the film’s Mr. Tumnus analog, Diaval. A raven turned into a human, he’s one of the franchise’s more colorful characters, and hands down the most intriguing man in the bunch. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but there’s no question that the (unintentional) goth has more going on. He’s devoted to Aurora, he’s cute, he’s funny, he’s resourceful, Maleficent already likes him, and he can fly (even if changing from a human to a raven isn’t something he can do at will).
The fact that he gets more screen time and more to do than Phillip suggests to me that the screenwriters (Linda Woolverton, joined by Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue for the second film) find him more interesting, too. It’s possible Diaval spends more time in the spotlight just because he doesn’t have to hew to any pre-established guidelines the way that Phillip does. Either way, his increased screen time means he feels less like the default option in a dating sim and more like the cool non-romanceable NPC you actually want to get with.
As is true of any actual friends group, there’s nothing I can do about the fact that I don’t like Aurora’s boyfriend, but I can at least express my frustration to others that she’s clearly picked the wrong (bird-)man.