Thursday, 3 January 2019
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
2018 UK/USA Directed by David Yates
UK cinema release print.
Once again, I should perhaps take some time to remind my readers that I am not the biggest admirer of Harry Potter. I saw the movies once each at the cinema because my father loves the books and I went with him but, I can’t say I enjoyed them all that much... although some were better than others and they were certainly all very well put together. That being said, I loved the first spin off film from a few years ago, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (reviewed here) and I was staggered at just how cinematically subtle the handling of the script by author J. K. Rowling was on that one, especially since these Potter prequels are not actually based on any books of hers.
I was going to leave this one until I brought the Blu Ray home to my father later in the year but I figured I might as well go and catch Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald at the cinema before it came out of circulation and, I have to say that this is not nearly as great a movie as the last one. I don’t know what’s happened here but this seems to me to be much more like a Harry Potter movie and much less the more subtle entertainment of the last Fantastic Beasts installment.
Now, in the last film I loved the four main characters played by Eddie Redmayne (Newt Scamander), Dan Fogler (Jacob Kowalski), Katherine Waterston (Tina Goldstein) and Alison Sudol (Queenie Goldstein)... but it has to be said that while they are all reprising their characters here and, mostly, have a chunk or two of screen time, they are not in this movie nearly as much as they perhaps could have been. After a fairly good start, this film seems less about giving these lovely characters the spotlight and more about trying to cram in as much interconnecting back story for future dramatic intrigue as the writer and director are able to shoehorn into the already impressive running time. Which is a shame because, although it does seem more like a regular Harry Potter movie (which obviously isn’t a good thing as far as I’m concerned), it does seem like nothing much happens in this installment and characters do feel like they’ve been badly neglected. Not in terms of character progression, for sure... you get a sense that both Newt Scamander and Queenie Goldstein are moving on in their mindset and that things could get quite dark and treacherous in future movies (of which I think there are roughly another five planned). However, I did feel kind of shortchanged and some sequences, like time spent highlighting certain beasts, felt blessedly less protracted but also like they were only there to remind everyone about the first film... so not too happy on that count either.
The film looks and sounds spectacular and, as usual for the series, there are some not bad, half inventive concepts being thrown around but for me, the spectacle of the thing is just another element that takes away from the true magic of the characters and the way they relate to each other in this case. Also, this film seems very steeped in Harry Potter lore, including the addition of Dumbledore as a younger man played by Jude Law and we even spend some significant time in Hogwarts at certain points in the film. So Muggles like me have no chance when it comes to all the things that might have possibly made me go “Ooh!” at certain points. I did recognise the name LeStrange but that was about it.
Also, some of those big effects sequences seemed, to me, to be a little harder on the eye and more confusing to decode than what I am usually used to dealing with. I did find myself wondering what was going on at certain points but it was still pleasant enough to look at, for the most part. And, Johnny Depp, reprising his role as villain Grindlewald was a pleasure to watch... he’s rarely dull and he tends to hold the eye when he’s on screen.
Another fine element of the film is James Newton Howard’s follow up score to his previous one and it hits the all the right notes it needs to. Once again he teases Hedwig’s Theme from the Harry Potter films before really giving it some welly for certain sequences... which is strange since Hedwig is nowhere in sight. Presumably this means that current and probably future directors are using the melody to denote the magical world itself rather than focusing on a specific character or, in the case of this theme, a specific character’s owl. Either way, it’s a nice score and I’m looking forward to giving the CD I’ve got waiting a spin sometime in the New Year.
Other than that... not much more to say on this one. I’m hoping the direction of this one is just a temporary glitch and that the next installment can get back to the smaller stories on the canvass... namely the romances between the two sets of leading characters. I can’t say I’d recommend Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald to many people unless they are already heavily into the Rowlingverse... it’s certainly not a good jumping on point. I just hope things will become a little clearer in the next movie because, honestly, this one lost me a little.