Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - 2018
Director(s): David Yates
Writer(s): J.K. Rowling
Cinematography by: Philippe Rousselot
Editor(s): Mark Day
Cast: Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Eddie Redmayne, Zoë Kravitz, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Callum Turner, Alison Sudol and Katherine Waterston
I guess I have to start with a disclaimer because this is 2018. I love the Harry Potter franchise, I've read the books, watched all the movies and been to Universal Studios with my wife (she is a bigger fan). I even have a wand based on the month I was born. So this review comes from a fan. I will assume you have watched the first one, if not stop reading because I will have spoilers for the first installment of the Fantastic Beast series. While I did not love the first one, I enjoyed the beast aspect and watching the world through Dan Fogler's eyes, but the "Scooby-Doo" ending of the first movie, in where they pull the mask off Colin Farrell and it's Johnny Depp's Grindelwald was very disheartening. It was a clear message of what this series was going to be. Walking out of this new installment, my fears were confirmed and compounded to the point that I'm dumbfounded that there are THREE more on the way.
This movie is the first one again but with less whimsy and we sub-out New York for Paris. Newt (Redmayne), Grindelwald (Depp) and Tina (Waterston) are once again hunting Credence (Miller) because he is the key to winning the upcoming war. The rest of the cast is also chasing Credence, from the British Ministry, Grindelwald followers and random red-conned members of the Potter Lore. This movie is a big “hide and seek” game, filled with characters that have generic motivations, good versus evil, and others that betray the characters they were in the first installment. We also have this subplot in the form of the mystery of Credence’s identity. The story is convoluted, contrived and annoying, I did not care who he was, but once his identity was revealed, I was overwhelmed by a sense of befuddlement and anger as it felt forced and unnecessary. The reveal is one of the most shoehorned moments of the entire franchise, and it plays with the connection of the fans to the world. Both movies end on a reveal that leaves a sour taste in your mouth.
I was staring at the screen wondering why did we have the first one to begin with, outside of introducing Newt and his gang, that they could've done it in this one. JK Rowling is a great writer, and she built a magical and beautiful world, but she is struggling to be a good screenwriter and could benefit significantly from a co-writer. Someone like Steve Kloves that penned the entire Harry Potter franchise. He took her core ideas and shaped it into a story that fit a narrative and structure of a movie.
Quick note: I did find MOMENTS of enjoyment as a fan of the series. The spells, the creatures, and Young Dumbledore are pockets of fun. However, when you string these moments together, they barely cover the convoluted 2 hrs 13 mins sluggish runtime.
**Vague spoilers for this movie skip this paragraph if you have not seen the second movie. Rowling didn't just rehash the same plot points from Fantastic Beast numero uno; she also went back into the cookie jar of the most memorable moments of the Harry Potter series. Breaking into the ministry of magic through the use of Polly juice. The conflict between the ministry and Dumbledore. The group escapes a highly secure building on the back of a magical creature. Big showdown ending located in a cemetery. The search of “the one” foretold in a prophecy, almost a chosen one if you will. All of this are elements that are jammed packed into this movie, that simple took me out of the experience.
The direction is once again solid as David Yates is now entirely in tune with how a Potter movie moves and feels. He has been behind the camera for the last six films, all of them getting progressively darker with the cinematography. The action sequences are entertaining, and the spells are compelling and well executed. I do feel he is shorthanded by the script, and the last two movies have a significant issue with pacing and editing. The score is a bit intrusive at times, but as a Potter fan, I couldn't help to love the classic score swelling up as they revealed Hogwarts for the first time.
Quick note: the movie has a few fantastic beasts and minimal crimes from Grindelwald, so I'm not sure why they picked this title. I would've named it "Where in the world is Credence?".
I enjoyed Redmayne's performance more this time around, he mumbled less his words, and he is the only character with any arch. In the beginning, he refuses to pick a side, since he seeks the good in all things, but by the end, Newt understands that this time around there is no good in what he is facing. Depp as Grindelwald is ok, Law as Dumbledore is good but diminished by short screen-time, Kim as Nagini is inconsequential and adds nothing to the story. Fogler is funny again as Jacob, but the script strips his character of any joy, adding to the overwhelming grim feeling of the movie. Kravitz as Leta and Credence as Miller were just there for convoluted exposition scenes that added up to nothing, since the end reveal wipes away anything we were told leading up.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination. Also, if you didn't notice, I did not have a good time at the theater. I write this review knowing that it could cause harm to my marriage, but the movie was that bad that I still wrote it. Yes, you will find moments of entertainment and wonder. Yes, you will laugh a few times. However, this movie is a retelling of a film that wasn't good to begin with, and a harsh realization that Rowling is stretching out a story that could've been told in two movies into five, making it unnecessarily convoluted and unrealistic. She had a great core story to tell, Dumbledore versus Grindelwald, and now I'm uninterested on seeing it through. I guess young Dumbledore is why I love movies.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is currently playing in theaters. I would skip it.
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