Monday, November 26, 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

In my earlier years, I was a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, both films & books. However, over the years, my passion for the franchise has become more muted. Nevertheless, I still consider it to be an influential aspect of my childhood.

Which is why I am saddened to say that Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is an utter disappointment. The tenth film in the now-titled Wizarding World franchise, & set in 1927, the film follows Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne), who is applying to get his international traveling privileges reinstated at the Ministry of Magic after having them revoked due to his time in New York. While at the Ministry, he runs into Leta Lestrange (played by Zoë Kravitz), who is engaged to Newt's brother, Theseus (played by Callum Turner). Newt's travel privileges are eventually reinstated; however, Newt & Theseus must work to locate Credence Barebone (played by Ezra Miller), an Obscurial who was last seen in Paris, & may be Leta's long-lost brother, Corvus. Although Newt declines, he is eventually persuaded by Hogwarts Prof. Albus Dumbledore (played by Jude Law) to find Credence.

Meanwhile, dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (played by Johnny Depp) has escaped authorities while in transit to England with the help of his follower from the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), Abernathy (played by Kevin Guthrie). Grindelwald is also after Credence, as Grindelwald believes Credence is the only one who can stop Dumbledore.

Newt returns to his home to find 2 old friends from New York: Jacob Kowalski (played by Dan Fogler), a No-Maj (Muggle); & his girlfriend, Queenie Goldstein (played by Alison Sudol). Queenie tells Newt that her & Jacob are trying to find her sister, Tina (played by Katherine Waterston), who is in Paris going after Credence along with Yusuf Kama (played by William Nadylam).

They find Credence at a circus in Paris, where he has befriended Nagini (played by Claudia Kim), a Maledictus who can transform into a snake. But as everyone descends on Paris, so does Grindelwald, as he plans to gather his followers & get them to rise up as he seeks pure-blood wizard domination.

The cast is a mixed bag. Waterston, Fogler, Sudol & Law are easily the standouts of the cast. Miller, Kravitz, & Turner are serviceable. However, Redmayne is underwhelming, & Depp (who shouldn't be in any films ever again for both on-screen & off-screen problems) is nowhere near menacing enough to be even a serviceable villain.

David Yates' direction is mediocre. While Yates is able to visually excite the audience, he can't get good performances out of some of his actors, & he doesn't manage to provide enough tension.

J.K. Rowling's screenplay is a mess. The plot is way too overstuffed, the narrative is incoherent, including many inaccuracies when it comes to Wizarding World history, the characterization is thin, & the dialogue is atrocious.

Colleen Atwood's costume design is excellent. The costumes are period-accurate, lovely to look at, & have that classic Wizarding World flair to them.

Stuart Craig's production design is amazing. The sets are period-accurate, lovely to look at, immersive, & also have that classic Wizarding World flair to them.

And the visual effects are polarizing. Some of the CGI is incredible; however, some of the CGI looks horrible, looking like obvious green screen.

This is easily the worst film in the Wizarding World franchise. Although it has some good performances & production values, they're overshadowed by incompetent direction & a terrible screenplay.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, November 16, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 134 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for some sequences of fantasy action.

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