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Sunday, January 13, 2019

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

Update:
Do not buy this movie, or other H.P merchandise, new and financially support J.K Rowling because of her anti-trans beliefs. As for Johnny Depp, reports are conflicting, from what I hear. Do your own research and what you feel is right. 

Note: Fiftieth post, and thank you to the friend who drove me 80 minutes (round-trip) to the theatre for this one!

The Crimes of Grindelwald is a magical mess that could only come from the creative cluster-bombed brain of post-Potter-published J.K Rowling. Apologies for the alliteration, it comes with the series.

The Crimes of Grindelwald, first and foremost is a reverse of the first Fantastic Beasts movie. People are the main plot points, and the animals are just along for the ride, and it's a non-traditional wild ride. The Crimes of Gindelwald, short and sweet, is about finding Credence (Ezra Miller), a wizard with almost no control over his powers, before Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) recruits him. But, along the way, a ton of stuff happens because Rowling writes her films in the same lengthy manner she writes her books.

First, we should get Depp out of the way. Personally, he's become incredibly problematic, allegedly abusive (if allegations were proven please correct me), and a shell of who he was. Professionally, he seems to have gotten his act together, and that can't be ignored either. Rowling and Depp together have pulled off something incredible, by creating a timeless take on current, and past, American politics. Depp hasn't had this kind of charisma in years onscreen, but it's easy to hang off his every word, before being reminded that "The beast of burden will always be necessary," when referring to muggles (or anyone considered "other") is the word of a monster. George Lucas was able to do something similar in the Star Wars prequels that demonstrated how political power can be consolidated and abused under one person. That was more through chaos than fear. Rowling leans on fear, racism, and misplaced hope (not Star Wars hope) to make this story hers. Unfortunately, it's just a small piece of the story.

The Crimes of Grindelwald spends most of its time introducing, or re-introducing, characters at an alarming rate. In the Wizarding World, that means they each have fully fleshed out backstories just waiting to be explored. Instead of reserving these backstories for the website Pottermore, Rowling and director David Yates explore them onscreen. Not only that, but a lot of time is spent just jumping from setup encounter to setup encounter, such as members of several Ministries of Magic who are hunting Credence. They don't really catch up to him until the end, and that's when they could've been revealed. They're quick to introduce to new audiences.

As for the characters we know and love...they're still lovely but Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Newt (Eddie Redmayne), and Queenie (Alison Sudol, who'd make a great Harley Quinn) and Jacob (Dan Fogler), are stuck with ridiculous strained relationship subplots. For what it's worth, the actors roll with them, and Rowling's strengths actually shine through. While the major story is a mess, her character work repairs a lot of that damage. The boys fixing out their relationship issues bring out the best moments of the movie, like when Jacob tells Newt that he shouldn't compare Tina's eyes to salamanders (this may work in some situations...give it a shot). The same can be said when the Fantastic Beasts are going in and out of the trunk.

The creature design looks better than ever, although the CGI is a little overused on them since the new batch of films. Animatronics and more practical methods should be considered, when possible. Some faces on the beasts just look a little cartoony. Regardless, Newt swimming with a Kelpie in a glassless tank/lake, and luring a "lion" with a fuzzy bauble at the end of his wand makes up for the look being not quite right.

The Crimes of Grindelwald is Rowling unchecked. One episode of the podcast Potterless, by Mike Schubert, is a great primer for the movie because he mentions how Rowling will go on for pages beautifully describing scenery, recapping past books, and digging in Harry's mind. It's fun to read but difficult to watch, since film is meant to condense those pages and make them pop in a different way. Moving forward, hopefully she and Yates, or she and some fresh blood, keep that in mind.

3/5

Note: Thanks again to the friend who drove me to the theatre, and if anyone wants more Harry Pottter in their life, please checkout Potterless by Mike Schubert, the story of a 25-year-old man reading the series for the first time. Each episode he discusses a few chapters with a special guest. It's fun, insightful, and I couldn't have written this without his help either. 
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