Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler
Director: David Yates
Screenplay: J.K. Rowling
Adventure/Family/Fantasy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 134 minutes
Release Date: November 16, 2018
Greg, it’s fantastic that we’ve reviewed almost 350 films together.
Too bad we have to review this not-so-fantastic installment in the Wizarding World franchise. Let’s recap:
The year is 1927, and the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) is being transferred from an American prison to London, where he’ll stand trial for crimes against Europe. During the transfer, he escapes with help from his henchman Abernathy (Kevin Guthrie). Meanwhile, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) appeals to the Ministry of Magic to restore his right to travel internationally. But the Ministry will only comply if he agrees to collaborate with Theseus (Callum Turner ) in re-capturing Grindelwald.
Hang on to your Quidditch Broom… Newt meets old friend Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz ), who is engaged to his brother Theseus (Callum Turner ), and must aid him in capturing Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) who has resurfaced in Paris and is suspected of being Credence’s long lost brother Corvus Lestrange who Grindelwald believes can kill his equal, Hogwarts Professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). But Newt says ‘no thanks’ and Grimson (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson) goes after Corvus. Meanwhile, Newt’s American friends, Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), show up and have a fight. They’re there to find Tina (Katherine Waterston), Newt’s love interest from the last film, who is also in search of Corvus. Now they’re all off to Paris to find Tina and Corvus and somehow find a way for Queenie and Jacob to get married. And we’re off…
Greg, I hate to say it, but this installment of Fantastic Beasts was a lifeless slog. Never has so much magic been so unmagical, never has so much wonderment been so wandering, and never has so much effort been so effing pointless. !Crimes of Grindelwald! should be renamed !Crimes of Filmmaking!. What went wrong and where do we start?
First, let’s acknowledge that a great performance by Eddie Redmayne was wasted and could not compensate for a strangely lackluster one from everyone else, most notably Ezra Miller, who basically mailed it in. Miller plays a central, pivotal character in this film, the heir-apparent to Grindelwald, the one who can defeat Dumbledore. Yet Miller plods and ambles his way through the story, barely keeping his gaze off the floor and showing less enthusiasm than your garden variety coma patient. This movie is so trudging and devoid of value that it was tortuous for me to withstand the 134-minute running time.
I’m wondering if we’ve reached the point of wizardry saturation. There’s no novelty in this film and it’s tiring to once again see people point a magic wand and create a puff of smoke. Most importantly, it’s clear that tales of wizardry had better tell a good story involving interesting characters, or we’ll abandon them – even if J. K. Rowling’s name is all over the product. The CGI effects in Fantastic Beasts are all well and good, but without compelling characters who transform themselves in a meaningful way (the way Harry Potter did), the production will fall flat and we’ll be bored.
I couldn’t agree more… wait … I think I can agree more. This was one CGI fest after another. I cannot make sense of this world. They go to a place in Paris where there is a “freak show.” But, I cannot tell the freaks from the “real” wizards. One freak in particular can turn into a snake – but … she may not be able to turn back. Really? Can’t someone just wave a wand and turn her back? Are there unspoken limits to magic in the Wizarding World?
And when Queenie arrives in Paris the receptionist is speaking French – which Queenie doesn’t know. Can’t she just put her wand to her ear and magically understand French? It seems in every other part of this film that’s precisely what happens as Newt waves his wand to uncover Tina’s footprints and pulls his wand to his ear to hear what was happening the day she arrived.
In short, there is no rhyme or reason to the magic in this world. Spells and beasts are conjured to conveniently solve plot problems as needed. Or, be inexplicably unsolvable when necessary.
And don’t get me started on the convoluted story. So many characters were introduced that I could hardly follow along. I wasn’t sure what the point of this story was. Was it to save Queenie and Jacob’s relationship? Or save Newt and Tina’s relationship? Or Leta and Theseus’s relationship? Or save Dumbledore? Or stop Grimson? Or help Grimson? Or find Credence? Or return Grindelwald to jail? I was so lost that by the time of the big reveal that Credence’s true identity us Aurelius Dumbledore – I was completely lost and quite frankly couldn’t care less. No wait, I believe I can care less.
Yes, Greg, when the new edition of Merriam Webster’s dictionary comes out, under the entry of “slog” should appear this title of this film. There is no dazzlement, no enchantment, and no magic to be found here. Just a retread of old ideas, too jumbled up for us to follow or care about. There were a few moments here and there I enjoyed, but they were so tiny that an electron microscope is needed to spot them. The Harry Potter series filled us with a sense of awe, but this prequel was awe-ful. I’m so disappointed with these not-so-fantastic beasts that I award them one single Reel out of 5 Reels.
Scamander is our main hero, and he did traverse some of the stages of the classic hero’s journey. The story is so convoluted that it’s hard to say how or whether he transformed by the story’s end. Let’s just say he was a hero who did his best to be a rather forgettable character, despite Eddie Redmayne’s fine performance. I give our hero 2 Hero points out of 5.
There are some notable archetypes that could not salvage the film, such as the classic archetype of good versus evil, and the archetypes of magic, wizardry, prisoners, and wardens. I give these archetypes 2 Arc points out of 5.
Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald is an uninspired mess of a story that is clearly setting up a franchise to come. Frankly, I am not looking forward to more of the same. As with the last installment, more time is spent on world-building than on storytelling. I have always been critical of Rowling’s world-building in all the books post the original Sorcerer’s Stone (which is magnificent). But she seems to have completely forgotten how to tell a proper story. She and her franchise are so intent on creating a spectacle that they’ve forgotten the reason we all loved Harry Potter – it’s the story of an underdog boy who finds his true power. Such a simple idea, was so perfectly told in book one. And now is so completely lost in a CGI fire. I give Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald just 1 Reel out of 5 – and I hope I never have to sit through another installment again.
It’s hard to know who the hero of this story is. In theory, it should be Newt Scamander. But we really see very little of him on-screen. And he doesn’t really do a lot. And he doesn’t really seem to grow at all. I didn’t see much heroic action on his part except to find Tina. I give him just 1 Hero out of 5.
And I don’t know of any archetypes except BAD SOAP OPERA ENDING with the changeling child born to defeat a great wizard. I mean – we KNOW how this is going to end. Albus Dumbledore isn’t going to die – because he lives in the Harry Potter series of which this is prequel. Dumb story telling. 1 Arc out of 5 for me.