Film Review: FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD (USA/UK 2018)

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Poster
Trailer

The second installment of the “Fantastic Beasts” series set in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World featuring the adventures of magizoologist Newt Scamander.

Director:

David Yates

Writers:

J.K. RowlingJ.K. Rowling (based upon characters created by)

The sequel to FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM and the prequel to the HARRY POTTER movies, THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD sees the entire original cast here performing more of the same, or in other words, marking time with nothing really to show for it.

The film continues where the first film ends.  The powerful dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) was captured by MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), with the help of Newt Scamander (Oscar Winner Eddie Redmayne).  But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escapes custody again and has set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards and witches up to rule over all non-magical beings.

The film’s best sequence is the beginning with Grindelwald’s (Johnny Depp) escape from jail custody.  Still, the action sequence is confusing with too many blurry special and CGI effects.  It sets up the beginning of events Grindelwald sets up to gain power and hopefully destroy human beings. 

It is best to get familiar with all the characters in the story before heading out to see the film, as it gets confusing and confusing very fast.  First and foremost is the main character, Newt.  

Newt is a British Ministry of Magic employee in the Beasts Division of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, as well as a self-proclaimed magizoologist.  This explains his suitcase containing all his magical creatures.  The creatures are cute-weird to look at, but they do not do much to propel the story, except to provide a few of the lighter moments, which can lead to boredom fast.  He played a part in remedying the events of a violent attack on the City of New York in December 1926 (the time when the film opens) involving dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald. He is a confidante of Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), despite being an outcast from certain circles of British Wizarding society due to his checkered past.  

Newt’s on and off romantic interest is Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson), a promoted MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America) Auror.  Thankfully, the romance is kept to a minimum with hardly any face sucking.  One of the story’s most interesting written characters is Creedance, the disturbed adopted child of Mary-Lou Barebone, violently abused and downtrodden. Enraged by people’s treatment of him and Grindelwald’s betrayal, he set his Obscurus parasite loose on the City of New York.  Menacingly portrayed by Ezra Miller (WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN), Creedance is one character one wishes had more screen time.  On the other end of the spectrum, the most annoying character is the plumpish and goofy baker, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler).  Thankfully, he is given less to do than in the first film.  His romance with Queenie (Alison Sudol) undergoes some tests in the film. 

The film has a period setting of Paris and London and the film looks great, courtesy of cinematographer Philippe Rousselot.  At least, he knows what to do with the $200  million production cost. Special effects are equally stunning.  But the problems of confused storytelling, muddled twists and turns and too many characters to keep track of, lead to an irrelevant and boring middle FANTASTIC BEASTS film, preparing for the next instalment.  

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bYBOVWLNIs

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Film Review: FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

fantastic_beasts_movie_poster.jpgDirector: David Yates

Writer: J.K. Rowling

Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol

 Review by Gilbert Seah

The spin-off of the HARRY POTTER films that began as one of Harry Potter’s text books in HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE, FANTASTIC BEASTS is a Harry Potter film without Harry Potter. Directed by David Yates who did a number of the Potter films, FANTASTIC BEASTS looks just like a J.K. Rowling film (she wrote the screenplay) despite the fact that it is set in New York City. Perhaps the fact that the film was shot in Liverpool to stand in for NYC could be a reason.

The book contains the history of Magizoology and describes 85 magical species found around the world. To get into the spirit of Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts (not shown in the film), provides the Foreword and explains the purpose of the special edition of this book (the Comic Relief charity). At the end, he tells the reader, “…The amusing creatures described hereafter are fictional and cannot hurt you.” He repeats the Hogwarts motto: “Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus”, Latin for “Never tickle a sleeping dragon”.

Harry Potter is replaced in FANTASTIC BEASTS by a new protagonist, a magizoologist called Newt Scamander, who at the start of the film arrives at Customs in NYC from a boat. He carries a suitcase that contains mythical creatures from his travels – creatures that predictably escape with Newt chasing them all around the city. The creatures are undoubtedly cute and weird, but the chase sequence at the film’s start runs too long. It feels like Peter Jackson’s KING KONG when the gorilla runs amok in NYC.
But Newt (Oscar Winner Eddie Redmayne) makes a good Rowland hero – a welcome difference from the alpha-male superhero that has graced cinema screens much too often. Newt is shy, wary of romance and bumbling without being too clumsy. Redmayne does well with his mannerisms often whispering instead of shouting his lines.

If there is an Oscar winner in any department, my bet would be another Oscar in the wardrobe department for Colleen Atwood. Her costumes are nothing short of magnificent.

The plot of the film can be briefly summed up as “the adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.” It is quite clear that the film has a narrative as weak as the hero’s personality. The story also suffers from the lack of a true villain. The villain in this piece, in the form of Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) pops up not often enough. The sequel which is reported to have Johnny Depp in the starring role as the evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald should add the necessary spice into the magic formula. Depp has a small cameo in FANTASTIC BEASTS.

But for a whopping $180 million production cost, Yates’ film dazzles the audience well enough though one might complain that the film is too full of special effects. In fact the film lacks a better story. An example is the first Harry Potter in the franchise, which is not the best but survived as the most watchable because it traces the beginning of Harry with a good solid storyline of him being an orphan and first sent to wizard school. FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM should break all box-office records regardless and prepare audiences for the next four in the new franchise.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vso5o11LuGU

 

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