Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

November 21, 2018 by  

Brace yourself for this one. “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” was a charming, sometimes dazzling prequel entry into the Wizarding World Potterverse. It introduced us to a slew of new characters to latch onto, all of them being adults this time: Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler). All of these characters were well defined and carried a nice little caper through to this sequel, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”.

Well, to say things have gotten a little more complicated is putting it mildly. Last time we saw them, Newt and Tina were trying to protect a poor orphaned child named Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) who was being held at a boarding house where he was reviled and mistreated. His magic presence, known as an Obscurial, wreaked havoc in America and nearly exposed a wedge that was driving into the relations between magical and non-magical people (known as Muggles in England and…No-Maj in America. Which one sounds better to you?). Thought vanquished, Credence has popped up in Paris searching for his real mother. Meanwhile, the criminal Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), has escaped while being transferred from his American prison to England to face charges in Europe. Apparently the mages of MACUSA didn’t watch the “Halloween” franchise.

Once again, much like the first “Fantastic Beasts”, this is a crime caper. Grindelwald is loose, trying to lure wizards into his little cult to promote the superiority of wizards over humans (::coughMagnetocough::), and Jacob and Queenie are visiting Newt after he returns to London and is propositioned to work for the Ministry of Magic to work with them in finding Credence. Newt isn’t into taking sides, and even languishes over another proposition from Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) who has his own agenda. But Newt does eventually accept Dumbledore’s plea, and heads to Paris–mainly since he knows Tina is now there, also working for the Ministry. Newt also runs into his old friend (flame?) Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz), who is engaged to his brother, Theseus (Callum Turner). Tina was led to believe Leta and Newt were engaged, which allows for a bit of a contrived love triangle, and adds a wrinkle to the main story.

Queenie and Jacob are initially just along for the ride, but Queenie finds herself drawn to Grindelwald’s idealism. He wants wizards to be free to do what they want: that includes, she thinks, partnership with the human of her choice. As it stands, wizards and humans shouldn’t mix. Mainly because there’s this silent peace (more like a Cold War) between them where they live harmoniously not acknowledging each others’ existence.

Credence is introduced to us as some kind of circus act along with a snake-woman (yeah, you know which one), Nagini (Claudia Kim). The two of them share a friendship, but Nagini’s future that we know puts a sour note on her character.

Then of course, we have the fantastic beasts: and they are still quite fantastic. The cutest would be the baby nifflers, and the most awe-inspiring would be the Zouwu (a cross between a dragon and a lion, I guess). They play a part of being plot points but they are still wonderful to look at. And for one poor Chupacabra (yes, you read that right), a sad ending.

But mostly, this is a really complex collection of narratives thrown into a blender–and you’d better pay attention to every piece of dialog if you want to follow what’s going on. That’s the one inhibition J.K. Rowling has as a screenwriter: she forgot the memo that exposition in a screenplay is more of a weakness than a strength, unlike in a novel. You simply don’t have the time to establish so much backstory in flashes and snippets of conversations, when the run-time keeps, well, running. In a novel you can stop, read it again, digest it. In a movie, you are visually digesting so much that you can miss the words in between.

That drawback will certainly leave any non-Potterverse filmgoer bewildered and confused; and for Potter fans, it’ll have them wishing they had a remote control to keep rewinding so they don’t miss anything.

There may also be some problems with the revelations revealed at the end–which again, are dropped in so rapidly that it’s hard to really process them all at once, in one viewing. Some of them may also be reviled by some fans.

For me, I think the film works just enough. I still like these characters, and want to see where this story goes: but I did see some predictability in the climax, and the set-up for the next film is very familiar. In some ways this felt like “Fantastic Beasts: The Empire Strikes Back”. It had a lot going on, but not as much character depth that puts it in the same conversation as that film.

I think there is a lot at stake for this franchise, as we no longer have the innocent world that Harry Potter gave us. We have a lot of dark, brooding tones that are shared by adults. And as adults, we already live in that world. This film won’t make you escape that. But it at least gives a good effort at making it entertaining.

My rating: :-)

Comments

Feel free to leave a comment...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!





:D :-) :( :o 8O :? 8) :lol: :x :P :oops: :cry: :evil: :twisted: :roll: :wink: :!: :?: :idea: :arrow: :| :mrgreen: