Director: David Yates
Actors: Eddie Redmayne, Dan Fogler, Jude Law, Johnny Depp
Award Corner: ☆☆☆☆ – B
In honor of the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald on DVD and Blu-Ray, I thought I’d finally get around to actually getting my review up on it. Suffice it to say, it’s been a while. I did manage to see it twice in theaters so I remember more of it than I thought I did. If you are unfamiliar with what this movie is, this is the second installment of a 5-part series created by J.K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter. It follows the adventures of Newt Scamander, known for writing the book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them in the hit series, Harry Potter. And yes, J.K. Rowling did in fact take a book that was mentioned in like two lines out of an entire book series and turn it into a brand new movie series. Such is the genius of Rowling. A brilliant marketing ploy I’ll continue to support as long as she keeps churning out content like this.
As the movie was released over 5 months ago in theaters, I’m going to assume that if you are reading this you’ve either seen it already or are planning to buy it today at the latest opportunity. Therefore be warned when I say that spoilers abound in this particular rendition. If you haven’t seen it, go buy it, watch it, and then come back to see if you agree with me.
Crimes of Grindelwald picks up not long after Fantastic Beasts ends and the plot is as confusing as one would think. It’s the main reason this particular movie lost one of it’s stars in my book. There are at least 8 main characters with competing story-lines. Unless you pay very close attention you are definitely at the risk of getting lost. Over the course of the movie the following things happen: Grindelwald – escapes and flees to Paris, seeking followers and to gather strength; Newt – heads to Paris with Jacob to find Tina and Queenie, and to be Dumbledore’s eyes and ears; Dumbledore – uses Newt to move against Grindelwald as he cannot, Leta – has a tragic/confusing backstory that further muddies the water, Credence – ends up in Paris somehow with Nagini (who may or may not be the human form of the snake from Harry Potter), and we still don’t know precisely who he is; Tina – is trying to track Credence in Paris to save him; and Queenie – desperate for love does the unthinkable. There are several other new characters introduced such as Newt’s brother Theseus and the ever hilarious Nicolas Flamel, but they just add further confusion to an already confusing plot.
What I liked about the first one occurred even less in the second. The first movie featured off all the cool, crazy creatures you could possibly hope for and more. The second movie was more character-based. There were some new beasts introduced, but it lost some of it’s magical wonder that can be found in the first installment. Granted, the world itself is headed toward World War II so it makes sense that the overall themes would be darker, but I still missed all of the creature interactions. Some of the favorites do return, like the Niffler and Pickett the Bowtruckle, and there is an awesome addition of a Chinese cat known as a Zouwu.
There is a lot of talent floating around in this particular movie, as most of the previous characters return and several new additions are found. Eddie Redmayne does a fantastic (heh, get it?) job reprising his role as Newt Scamander. Dan Fogler is back as Jacob, which I was glad to see as Jacob was the heart and soul of the first movie. Zoë Kravitz is introduced as Leta LeStrange. She does an excellent job playing Newt’s first love and has probably the most interesting backstory of any character there. Callum Turner gets a turn as Theseus Scamander, Newt’s older brother. I was unsure of him at first, but by the end of the movie I was onboard with the casting decision. I’m still not a huge fan of having Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. He’s too famous, too notorious, and too…something…to play Grindelwald. He’s one of the few actors I watch that has managed to lose the ability to lose themselves in a role. I’d rather have had Colin Farrell actually be Grindelwald instead of being Graves. Ezra Miller returns as well, which is amusing as he supposedly exploded in the last movie. And then of course, there’s Jude Law, who actually, much to my surprise, did a credible job as Albus Dumbledore.
Now this is an area where it did truly excel. There are multiple locations, from New York City, England, all the way to Paris. Some of the best scenes happen in the Paris equivalent of Diagon Alley. The initial opening scene was very heavily darkened which made it difficult to actually see some of the action happening on screen which is a failing I’m noticing more and more. Either that, or my eyes are just going really bad. The expansion of Newt’s house was well done as was the CGI for all of the creatures. There were some stylistic things that happened which I couldn’t find the logic for, such as the blanketing of Paris with black cloth, but that had less to do with the execution of it and more to do with plot. Perhaps the most exciting scene was the graveyard scene at the end where they join together to stop the city of Paris from burning up.
James Newton Howard was responsible for this particular soundtrack. He has quite a few famous movies under his belt including The Hunger Games, The Batman Trilogy, and A Series of Unfortunate Events. He was also responsible for the first Fantastic Beasts movie. The familiar themes return, only colored darker with more brass, specifically a mournful french horn. There is an overall frenetic pace to his music the further into the movie, drawing you to the inevitable conclusion that something awful is going to happen (which it does). His main theme for Newt is very whimsical, which fits his character completely. Rightly so, it has less of a jazzy swing that could be found from the first one, but does feature more vocals. And as always that initial theme of Harry Potter can be found, reminding the audience that this still J.K. Rowling’s playground.
Overall: Still suitable for children and adults alike, particularly if they are Harry Potter fans. I enjoyed the movie for what it was, but it wasn’t quite as fantastic as the first one. However, it is a solid sequel and definitely leaves it open for more to follow.