Tuesday, January 14, 2020
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Directed by David Yates and written by J.K. Rowling that is based on her fictional guide book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the sequel to the 2016 film that follows various wizards trying to find the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald who is rumored to be forging an alliance to destroy Muggles prompting a young wizard to seek the help of Albus Dumbledore. The film is set a year after the events of the previous film as it explore loyalties and the emergence of a much darker conflict that would possibly shape the wizarding world with Johnny Depp playing the role of Grindelwald and Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore. Also starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoe Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, Kevin Guthrie, William Nadylam, and Brontis Jodorowsky as Nicholas Flamel. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a bloated and nonsensical film from David Yates and writer J.K. Rowling.
Set a year after events in New York City, the film revolves the escape of Gellert Grindelwald following a prison transfer as he has returned to Europe to wreak havoc prompting a young wizard to find and stop Grindelwald. It’s a premise that could be told in a simple fashion where it play into characters dealing with this antagonist as loyalties come into question yet its execution in the story ends up being more about spectacle rather than focusing on the story. J.K. Rowling’s screenplay is the biggest crime of the film as it’s a script that starts off with this exhilarating escape only to fall down hard into an overblown and over-explained first act that reintroduce characters from the previous film and don’t do much to introduce new characters. At the same time, the story goes all over the place where part of the narrative takes place in Britain while much of it is in Paris and there is so much that is happening that it’s hard to keep up.
There are also these twists and turns that starts to occur late in the film as it involves the identity of Creedence (Ezra Miller) as it ends up being filled with a lot of confusion while there are also these subplots involving individual characters with Queenie (Alison Sudol) going to Grindelwald thinking he can help change the law about wizards/witches marrying muggles/no-majs. The lack of a structure is also what hinders the script as much of it is all about exposition and an overdrawn first act that rely on exposition leading to a third act and skipping over a second act to unveil this climax that is underwhelming and incoherent in its execution.
David Yates’ direction is definitely undercooked largely due to the many shortcomings of the film’s screenplay. Shot mainly at a studio lot in Leavesden in Britain with additional shots in London, Paris, and parts of Switzerland, Yates establishes a world that is vast with much of the emphasis set on Europe as well as being in transition. It mainly serves as set dressing where it tries to distract the viewers with these vast spectacle of a magical world that has a lot to offer. Yet, Yates never really does more to establish the world nor make it feel special while the brief scenes set at Hogwarts has that yet it is only brief that also include a strange flashback scene involving a young Newt Scamander (Joshua Shea) and Leta Lestrange (Thea Lamb). Scenes involving Newt (Eddie Redmayne) and the no-maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) has Yates creating compositions that are quite typical but it often tries to play it for laughs or suspense yet it doesn’t deliver in neither department. Even moments where Newt meets Queenie’s sister Tina (Katherine Waterston) feels tacked on as they never get a chance to really re-establish their own relationship.
Yates’ direction does establish the locations and where the characters are but its approach to suspense is underwhelming as it tries to put in awkward moments of humor while whatever dramatic rhythms it tried to put on feels flat. Even in the lead-up to its climax feels clunky and tacked on at times where it comes to these revelations about Creedence’s identity as it creates confusion that is followed by Grindelwald’s plans for an upcoming war as he asks wizards and witches to join him. Instead, it feels like an overblown set piece with lots of visual effects and ends up being anticlimactic that is then followed by another big revelation that isn’t just ridiculous but it raises questions into what Rowling is trying to say and set up for the next story nearly to the point of frustration. Overall, Yates and Rowling create a film that tries to do a lot only to end up being a hollow and lifeless spectacle about a wizard trying to stop an evil wizard from wreaking havoc on the world.
Cinematographer Philippe Rousselot does fine work in creating unique look for the visuals though it never does anything to standout due in part to what Yates try to do on a visual scale. Editor Mark Day does terrible work with the editing mainly due to the many subplots and expository scenes as it aims for too many quick cuts where at times it becomes nonsensical in what is going on. Production designer Stuart Craig, with set decorator Anna Pinnock and supervising art director Martin Foley, does nice work with the look of Hogwarts and the British and French Ministry of Magic buildings though other sets don’t have this air of intrigue that the characters go into. Costume designer Colleen Atwood does OK work with the costumes as it play into the style of the late 1920s to play into the refined look of Leta Lestrange and the more ragged look of Newt Scamander.
Hair/makeup designer Fae Hammond does good work with the hairstyles that the women wore at those time though the look of Grindelwald is just dumb. Special effects supervisor David Watkins, along with visual effects supervisors Tim Burke, Andy Kind, and Christian Manz, do some decent work with the visual effects to play into the world of magic yet it tries too hard to be big for the film’s climax as it just falls very short. Sound designers Niv Adiri, Ben Barker, and Glenn Freemantle do some terrific work with the sound to establish the locations and the kinds of power that the wizards/witches uses in the spells they create. The film’s music by James Newton Howard has its moments in soaring orchestral score yet nothing really stands out as tries too hard to help set a tone for the drama and humor as it ends up not being memorable at all.
The casting by Fiona Weir also has its moments though many of the actors involved are practically wasted due to the poor material they’re given. Performances from Joshua Shea as the young Newt, Thea Lamb and Ruby Woolfenden as the young versions of Leta Lestrange, Fiona Glascott as a young version of Minerva McGonagall, Poppy Corby-Teuch as Grindelwald’s right-hand woman Vinda Rosier, Victoria Yeates as Newt’s assistant Bunty, Kevin Guthrie as Tina’s former supervisor Abernathy who is a follower of Grindelwald, and Brontis Jodorowsky in a very under-used appearance as the famed alchemist Nicolas Flamel who helps out in the film’s climax. William Nadylman and Claudia Kim are wasted in their respective roles as French-Senegalese wizard Yusuf Kama and the circus performer Nagini as they’re not given much to do with the narrative as the former spends his time trying to catch Creedence as it relates to his own family while the latter is someone who befriends Creedence while dealing with a blood curse that eventually would make her a snake permanently. Callum Turner’s performance as Newt’s older brother Theseus is also underused as he’s not given much to do other than give Newt advice as well as be Leta’s fiancé.
Zoe Kravitz’s performance as Leta Lestrange as a childhood friend of Newt and later Theseus’ fiancée is a mixed bag mainly due to the material where it is a character that is definitely tormented and troubled but is unable to really be fleshed out as she ends up being a form of exposition about a story that relates to Kama. Alison Sudol’s performance as Queenie Goldstein as this witch gifted in Legilimens has become this desperate and almost psychotic character who wants to marry a no-maj as this character who was sweet and kind has now become insane as Sudol’s performance is just bad. Katherine Waterston is OK as Queenie’s older sister Tina as the American auror who is trying to find Creedence as she is badly written as someone who isn’t given much to do other than be upset at Newt over something she misinterpreted as well as be involved in awkward moments. Dan Fogler is bland as Jacob Kowalski as Queenie’s no-maj lover who is first seen under an enchantment spell as he is often confused while is also badly written as someone with no real sense of direction or motivation.
Ezra Miller is terrible as Creedence as there isn’t given any logical explanation into how he’s alive as he’s first seen in a circus while is also someone with a lack of direction about who he is as Miller is unable to flesh out his character. Eddie Redmayne is horrendous as Newt Scamander as whatever charm he had in the previous film that he carried is washed away in favor of him being quirky and awkward to the point where Redmayne just overdoes it as he tries to be funny and serious only to accomplish in neither. Johnny Depp’s performance as Gellert Grindelwald is horrible mainly because Depp never really fleshes out Grindelwald other than be someone with dark intentions and give this big speech as it’s just Depp being weird and menacing yet with no substance as it’s just a lazy performance. Finally, there’s Jude Law who gives an excellent performance as a younger version of Albus Dumbledore where Law manages to bring in some nuances and charm into the character despite the shortcomings of the script as his brief appearances in the film do have some gravitas as he’s the only thing in the film that is worthwhile.
Despite Jude Law’s appearance as Albus Dumbledore, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a horrendous film from David Yates and writer J.K. Rowling. Largely due to its uninspired direction, overblown spectacle, badly-written characters, lame twists, and a messy and incoherent screenplay that is expository rather than take its time to build up its suspense. It is a film that wants to be a lot of things as well as set things up for the next film and instead end up becoming demanding and overblown to the point of indifference and frustration. In the end, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is an atrocious film from David Yates and J.K. Rowling.
Harry Potter Universe Films: Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone - Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets - Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban - Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire - Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix - Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 - Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them - (Fantastic Beasts Pt. 3) – (Pt. 4) – (Pt. 5)
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