Friday, March 29, 2019

Movie Review: Fantastic Beats - The Crimes of Grindelwald

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Fun beasts, great revelations
Cons: Pacing is way off
The Bottom Line:
More CGI beasts
Look great; distract from story
Pacing still issue

Still Building, So Still Slow

I was busy this fall, so I didn’t go out of my way to see the new Fantastic Beasts movie, The Crimes of Grindelwald, when it hit the theater.  It didn’t help that I was hearing decidedly mixed reactions to the movie.  But, being the Harry Potter fan I am, I knew I’d have to watch it eventually.  Honestly, it was about what I expected.

The movie starts in New York in 1927 as Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) is being prepared for his trip to England to answer for his crimes.  What crimes?  He’s been working to help wizards take over the world from us mere muggles.  Of course, he is not going to go quietly, and an elaborate escape plan goes off without a hitch, leaving him free.

The main action picks up a few months later in England.  While there has been no further sign of Grindelwald, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is attempting to convince the Ministry of Magic to allow him to travel abroad again.  That isn’t going well, and Newt is prepared to stay at home until his next appeal even when a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) attempts to lure him to France with rumors of a magical creature they need to find before Grindelwald does.

However, it is the appearance of Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and Queenie (Alison Sudol) in his home that actually gets Newt moving, especially with word that Tina (Katherine Waterston) is in Paris.  Soon the quest to find Tina is under way with Newt along so he can tell her how he really feels about her.  Only, Paris is where Grindelwald is, and he is making plans of his own.  What is he up to?  Will our friends get caught when his plan begins?

Okay, I’m about to make myself a huge target, but here’s the thing about J. K. Rowling.  She is amazing at creating characters and entire worlds.  She is a great writer and brings you into this new world as if it were real.  I fully appreciate her powers as a writer.  However, her pacing is horrible.  She has created this world and wants us to live in it, but the result is a story with all the twists and excitement crammed into the final half if not final third of the story.  That was the case with the Harry Potter books.  And, since she is writing these screenplays, it is the case here as well.

Now, this isn’t to say that I wasn’t enjoying some of these flights of fancy.  The beasts she’s imagined are wonderful, and the effects used to make them real are fantastic.  There’s a reason we all fall under her spell.  However, the story was very slow.

And it doesn’t help that we have these unrelated characters we pop in on every so often, for a few minutes at a time.  By the end of the film, it is obvious why we had to meet them, but without any context, it was hard to understand why they were part of the movie and why we should care about them.  It would have been much easier if the main characters had gotten involved with these other characters earlier.  And it would have made the revelations at the end much more impactful.

Because the movie does have twists.  The revelations at the end are huge, and I’ll definitely be there for the next film to find out what it all means for the story we are being told now and the world we already know.

My fault is not with the actors.  They are all great at bringing their characters to life.  Jude Law is a lot of fun as the younger Dumbledore.  Johnny Depp can be a bit over the top as Grindelwald at times, but this is Johnny Depp we are talking about – that’s no real surprise and he mostly works.  And the four main returning characters and actors are once again fantastic.  I love this little band.

I hope these movies get tighter as they progress.  I can tell there is a good story in there, but they need to be more focused than Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is.

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