“Do You Know Why I Admire You, Newt? You Do Not Seek Power. You Simply Ask, “Is A Thing… Right..?”
Not being the biggest fan of the first Fantastic Beasts film back in 2015, the three year wait for the second entry in the ever-expanding “Wizarding World” franchise to focus on Eddie Redmayne’s (The Theory of Everything) Newt Scamander was undoubtedly filled with notions on how exactly they could make a film with such talented performers become something I could actually enjoy. Directed by the steady hand of David Yates, a filmmaker who has helmed everything linked to the words of J. K. Rowling since Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Crimes of Grindelwald reunites Scamander with both friends and foes whilst introducing the likes of Jude Law (King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) as a younger, trimmer Albus Dumbledore and Johnny Depp as the central and titular antagonist after Colin Farrell (Widows) was seen in the previous movie to simply be a jaw-dropping falsehood. Whilst swapping the likes of Farrell for Depp feels similar to trading your beautiful Aston Martin for a raggedy, temperamental French coupe with a penchant for stalling, such a trade feels only like a faint blip in the spectrum of issues prevalent in The Crimes of Grindelwald, a convoluted and needlessly tedious second wind which suffers from the simple fact of being a franchise entry which is all filler, no killer, and whilst there are particular elements which bring forth memories of what makes Rowling’s world so magical and delightful, Yates’ latest is unfortunately a wizarding tale of woe which fails to recreate the best the franchise has offered in the past.
Central to the film’s maddening issues is undoubtedly Rowling’s script, a convoluted, messy and particularly confusing work of madness which features zero threat, makes zero sense and is bogged down by a range of two dimensional, underdeveloped characters who come and go without clearly laying down their individual intentions or overall purpose to the story. With Depp ironically the best thing in the entire movie, his Billy Idol inspired look and Bono-esque sanctimonious villainous speeches failed to prevent me from cheering inside every time he came on screen, particularly when alternative company elsewhere became more and more boring with every passing minute, and even with the inclusion of the wonderful Zoë Kravitz as a conflicted, troublesome auror adding to list of powerful female actors carried over from the first film, her performance is let down by wonky character development and a overarching sense of her talent’s being well and truly wasted. With awful camera work which featured a mix between jaded, snapshot editing and invasive facial shots which looked like the work of a drunk and drugged up Sergio Leone, one of the more obvious issues is cinematographer Philippe Rousselot’s decision to mask the film in a bland, murky colour pallette, which although managed to echo the bland and lifeless feel of the film to a tee, also felt like a DC Universe interpretation of the Harry Potter franchise by failing to handle the darker aspects of the narrative and instead becoming a painful slog into unrepenting murkiness. Whilst the likes of Jude Law and even Eddie Redmayne, an actor who I still can’t fully get on board with, try their absolute best to bring some sense of dramatic pull to the action, an impressive musical score and wardrobe aside can’t paint over the fact that for a film which lasts nearly 140 minutes, nothing memorable actually seems to happen, and with gargantuan, bewildering plot twists crammed into a indecipherable final ten minutes, The Crimes of Grindelwald is somehow less fantastic than its’ mediocre predecessor.
Overall Score: 4/10
“This Is Mr. Scamander, He’s Lost Something, I’m Going To Help Him…”
Being of an age in which the two main film franchises entwined with my youth was Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, the knowledge of an extended glance into the land of the former was an interesting premise, albeit a premise which included zero of the franchises’ earlier cast members and a premise which undoubtedly was a huge risk after the success of the earlier movies. Stealing David Yates as director, the man responsible for the last few HP movies, and having J. K. Rowling herself as screenwriter, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, inspired by the book of the same name by Rowling back in 2001, is a completely new view of the Potterverse, one which takes place in 1920’s New York and follows the menacing tribulations of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) who, much like the title says, loses a substantial amount of his fantastical beasts en route to Arizona and is then tasked with locating such creatures alongside the “no-maj” baker-to-be Jacob (Dan Fogler) and former Aura, Tina (Katherine Waterston).
Being a solid fan of anything remotely Harry Potter, it comes as a deep disappointment that Fantastic Beasts for me was a resounding mess of a movie, a film which had very little engagement in terms of its characters alongside a strange sense of nonexistence in terms of any sort of narrative which made the film rather tedious at times, particularly during its’ sloggish first hour and the movie’s cop-out conclusion which seemed to have more endings than Return of the King. With the wasting of prestigious talent such as Jon Voight, Ezra Miller and Colin Farrell, the movie focuses most of its’ attention on Redmayne in the movies’ lead role, a performance which takes the fundamental kooky nature of Redmayne and ranks it up to eleven, resulting in a character which was actually rather boring to be with. Whilst the film does boast some creative digital effects and a cute loot-obsessed niffler, Fantastic Beasts can only be described as a mildly inconsequential addition to the lore of Harry Potter, a film which begins the cycle of FOUR more movies with a whimper rather than a bang, and a film which really nosedives with the most obvious twist since Inferno, in the addition of Johnny Depp as the real protagonist of the series. Shame really, as Colin Farrell was one of the film’s positives. For every cloud I suppose…