At first glance, Disney’s Descendants franchise seems pretty silly. Heroes bring back dead villains to punish them by banishment. Prince Ben decrees four villain kids will join Auradon Prep, and then the first movie happens. The sequel follows Uma, Ursula’s daughter. She kidnaps Ben to get Fairy Godmother’s wand and highlights the way allyship can go wrong.
Descendants 2 starts six months after the first to Mal struggling to adjust to life in Auradon. It does not help that no one will let Mal or Ben have a moment of peace in planning his Cotillion. However, Mal leaves for the Isle after Ben realizes she has been using magic instead of trusting him to help.
The viewers learn that Uma has taken over since Mal left. She rules the isle with Harry (Captain Hook’s son) and kind of daft Gil (Gaston’s son). Uma kidnaps Ben after he and the others arrive on the Isle to find Mal. The action follows from there once Uma asks for the wand as a condition of Ben’s release.
Between incredibly choreographed sword fights and snarky remarks between Mal and Uma, Ben realizes how wrong he was to have only brought four kids over to Auradon. Since Ben’s first scene onscreen in the first film, the writers made clear that Ben truly cares about the Isle. This is a place where fruit, ice cream, and other things that are normal for kids at Auradon do not exist. The fact that the Isle is a slum heightens the racial dynamics, as the Isle is more ethnically diverse. These things make Ben’s attempt to fix his parents and their generation’s mistakes all that more necessary.
As a barely sixteen year old at the time, it makes sense that he would not make the best choices. Moreover, as one of the prominent white men in the film, his actions mirror those of many who really do want to help but inadvertently make things worse. Ben tells Uma that he should have invited her and states he wants her to come to Auradon, but she refuses his invitation. Mal and the others are able to save Ben and get back to Auradon, but Mal’s spellbook is left behind.
At Cotillion, which is set on a ship, Uma shows up after having spelled Ben to love her and chaos ensues. This scene is even more impactful considering the actresses for Mal and Uma played the two as exes! They insinuate Mal broke up with Uma before leaving for Auradon and affirmed many times on twitter that the two dated. Mal actually dated Harry as well! Dove Cameron is not straight either, which makes her choices when playing Mal extremely important.
With this information, the viewer gains a new perspective into Uma’s anger at Mal leaving her behind, and Ben not choosing her. Fortunately, Jane reminds Mal (yet to realize Ben is under a spell) that Ben truly loves her after revealing a stained glass painting with Mal in purple and green. True love’s kiss breaks the spell before Uma and Mal transform into a squid-human hybrid and dragon to fight. Ben jumps into the water and asks Uma to help him help those still on the Isle. She relents and swims away. Evie asks Ben to include more children on the list and after he asks for the list, they celebrate. The end for now.
Ben’s not the only ally in this film. Jay, now captain of the R.O.A.R team (a mix of parkour and fencing with real swords) stands up for women joining the sport. When a captain is beat, the opponent takes the captain spot. Though Lonnie beat Jay honestly, because the rules state a team is made of a captain and eight men, Chad (who is the frattiest of frat boys now) refuses to let Lonnie play. She responds that if her mother had followed all the rules, she would have lost the war! After Lonnie helps them save Ben on the Isle, Jay makes her captain. Although, these scenes are short in comparison to main plot arc, it was incredibly refreshing to see Jay change his mind about keeping his position as captain and support Lonnie and other girls in joining the sports at Auradon.
At the end of the day, Descendants 2 emphasizes how poorly thought out allyship can harm more than heal while depicting probably the only (almost textually explicit) ex-relationship between two women in one of their movies. Choosing only a handful of people to ‘bring over’ to Auradon hurt the Isle more than it helped the four, so Ben must learn how to engage with the entire Isle’s problems rather than just trying to ‘fix’ a few he deems worthy.
Oh, and the music is actually catchy and the cast’s passion for the story comes through in every scene. I highly suggest everyone watch the sequel.