Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald Review

 

This week I had the chance to see the latest film in the Harry Potter universe- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and I immediately put up my review on youtube (please subscribe). I was pretty harsh in my initial thoughts but as I have had 2 days to think about it, I don’t think I was harsh enough. I walked out of the theater exhausted and completely baffled. My assumption at the time is this movie must be made for people more aware of the lore than I am, so they will like it. However, I have talked with many hard core fans who are bitterly disappointed, which makes me come to the conclusion that it is just a colossal misfire.

I was not a big fan of the first Fantastic Beasts film but it had some positive traits. I liked Queenie and Jacob’s relationship and story, and some of the setting/new lore was fun and whimsical. My main problems with it was Newt as a protagonist (would have made a better side character), Newt’s mumbling was hard to understand, the tone was all over the place and the final reveal was very underwhelming. That said, this new film makes the first film seem like a masterpiece! (Also I remember being so bored watching Harry Potter Deathly Hallows pt 1. Little did I know how good I had it. I at least understood that one)
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It’s hard for me to tell you all that is wrong with the movie because I was so confused the entire time that my brain hurt. There are so many characters each with their own plots making the story impossible to follow. It kind of reminded me of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, which left me with a similar sense of exhaustion.

The original Harry Potter book and movies were  mysteries in the world of magic. Harry was presented with a problem that they had to follow the clues and find the solution for. As they searched their characters grew and the many side characters made the experience rewarding. Despite them being in a series each entry had a sense of of its own story and identity. Not so here.

To begin with, the good parts of the original film are immediately done away with. All 4 of the main characters are divided up and what they do with Queenie and Jacob doesn’t make sense and is underserved at best. Instead of being charming, Queenie was nonsensical and Jacob was just watching stuff happen. They also immediately leave America so what was the point of setting up all that lore and unique identity for American wizardry?

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Then we get to meet Jude Law as Dumbledore, and he does a good job but it didn’t feel like the Hogwarts we know and love. Why is Dumbledore wearing muggles clothing? What is going on? The advertising would have you believe this Dumbledore is a major part of the movie but they cut away from him so much it is at best an ensemble role.

Zoe Kravitz plays Leta Lestrange and we jump around from seeing her as a child and then an adult and back again. Maybe we will get some reveal in the next movie that will clarify things, but I was completely lost by her character. Then we had Tina, Nagini (which don’t get me started on her weird undercooked storyline), Krall, Nagel, Professor McGonagall shows up for no reason, Nicolas Flamel, Newt’s brother is a major character, Credence is a major character that made no sense. The list goes on and on. I haven’t been this baffled by a fantasy film since Warcraft. It’s true…

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And then we have Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. I was nervous about his performance because him in white face in fantasy films has gotten so boring. In fairness, he is fine with what is given him but what on earth is he talking about all the time? They are obviously trying to set him up as some kind of Hitler type character but they show scenes from the muggles, which they never do in Harry Potter. His speeches were incoherent gibberish and then I was never clear is he using magic to control people or are they acting under their own agency when drawn to him?

The ads keep telling fans to #ProtecttheSecrets. I legitimately have NO IDEA what secrets we are supposed to be keeping. There is a reveal at the end that I guess is a big deal but it made no sense and the more I thought about it the more it irritated me. I guess it is a secret but it’s a nonsensical secret so no loss there?

In recent years JK Rowling has begun to George Lucas herself. She finished her saga on just the right note and then she started Pottermore and it was all downhill from there. Instead of leaving her world for her readers to imagine and play with she made an alteration here or there. She caved to fans and answered questions that didn’t need to be answered. With each reveal some of the mystery was taken away and the magic lost.

Then the first film came out and she didn’t have a screenwriter to edit her down and it was a bit of a mess. Then she gave her permission to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to be included as canon and it was very messy. Finally we get this and the universe is seriously damaged. My Potterhead friend was very upset about it, and I feel for her. It’s something we Star Wars fans have dealt with twice now and it is very disappointing.

I know it is technically the creators right to add to their creation as much as they want, but I so wish they wouldn’t. I don’t know if it is greed or a perfectionism that pushes them to make changes but it really hurts the wonder and appeal of the world they have so carefully created. They might think they are helping their fans by providing new content but they are truly breaking their hearts. I know they won’t stop but they should. Sigh…

Some may like spending 2 hours and 13 minutes in this mass of confusion and plotlines and that’s fine. For me, I’m struggling to find a reason to not include Crimes of Grindelwald in my worst of the year list. I still find Newt hard to understand so I don’t even have that to pluck it up like I do with other franchises (Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom or The Meg for example).

It’s just terrible and I’m sad. The end.

Also this is not a movie for children. Take the PG-13 seriously.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review (Spoiler Free)

fantastic-beasts42016 will forever go down as the year of the disappointing blockbuster. Out of the dozens of blockbusters I’ve seen only 5 I would classify as  great films. The discouraging thing is so many films have had such potential. Indeed, they have such potential that I buy into the hype and go into the film expecting something great only to be disappointed when leaving.

Well, my friends, you can add another film to this list.  The newest spin-off in the Harry Potter world, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, isn’t awful by any means but it is very disappointing.

I should state outright I am not a die-hard Harry Potter fan. I am more of a casual fan but I have recently done my rewatch of the Harry Potter movies over on my channel and I was reminded that they are a bit of a mixed bag. None of them are awful either but I’d say 4 are successful and 4 really are not. You can listen to our podcasts here.

Fantastic Beasts is particularly disappointing because this was the chance to see JK Rowling write a screenplay without any fear of loyalty to a book or other source material. She could just unleash her creativity on the screen, but it ends up being a mostly frustrating experience.

But there are some good things about the film that give it a mild recommendation.

Good Things-

There are two plotlines in Fantastic Beasts. The first involves Newt Schamander (Eddie Redmayne) getting his suitcase switched with a non-magician (muggle in Britain no-maj in US) man named Jacob. Unfortunately Jacob unleashes some of Newt’s magical creatures onto the city of New York and they have to hunt them down.

This search is a lot of fun and it was surprisingly slapsticky. There has always been some humor in the Harry Potter movies but this was long segments of people falling into mud or getting into other shenanigans with the magical creatures. My friend laughed a lot more than I did but it was pleasant entertainment.

fantastic-beats6I also really liked Jacob and a woman named Queenie played by Alison Sudol. I almost wish the movie had been about the two of them instead of Newt. She lit up the screen whenever she was on it and her ability to read minds was charming and funny.

The music by James Newton Howard was fantastic, capturing the 1920’s speak-easy feel as well as the exquisite costumes by always reliable Colleen Atwood. The beasts were also adorable especially a creature called a niffler. They will probably sell a lot of toys of him at Universal Studios. fantastic-beasts5

I was also never really bored so it’s a harmless film about magic that I suppose hard core fans will love. I wasn’t offended or bored out of mind by exposition like in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

fantastic-beasts3Bad Things-

When I first got out of the theater and did an initial thoughts youtube review where I gave it a B- but now that I’ve thought it over I am going lower because there really are a lot of problems.

The first big issue is with the tone. Like I said, they try way too hard to be funny and then combine that humor with some really dark story-lines I won’t spoil. The sort of B story-line involving Ezra Miller as an orphan named Credence Barebone and his head ‘mother’ played by Samantha Morton is unsettling to say the least. It didn’t gel together very well.

There also wasn’t a clear focus like you had in the Harry Potter movies, which even when unsuccessful were still about Harry and Voldemort growing in strength and their eventual meeting. Evidently there are going to be 4 more movies and I really have no idea where the story is going or what the focus on the series is going to be. This film was half spent playing hide and seek with magical creatures for laughs and the other half fighting a dark demon in New York. Where do you go from here? I really don’t like the Hobbit movies but at least the first Hobbit film was a clear start to a journey and series.

Also, the other big problem I had is in the acting choices made throughout the film. Eddie Redmayne in particular mumbled most of his dialogue to the point where I was constantly leaning over to my friend asking her “what did he just say?” Some other actors were laying on the New York accent very thickly and it made them difficult to understand.

A lot of the actors like Colin Farrell are underused. Academy award winner Jon Voight is in like 2 scenes and Ron Perlman is briefly seen. I guess they could appear more in future installments but it’s odd when you have such well known actors in small roles. I guess they will clear things up in future installments but I found myself confused particularly on the B more scary story-line

porpentina-tina-goldsteinIn the end, it’s not a horrible movie but I did walk away feeling disappointed. There is fun to be had with the magical beasts and characters like Queenie but it’s hard to endorse a movie when I can’t understand the lead character most of the time.

The tonal problems and lack of overall compelling story are also hard to ignore. Like I said, in my youtube review I gave it a B- but today I am going with a lower grade.

Overall Grade- C+

Also, I don’t think this movie is going to appeal to kids much. I think they will find it kind of boring. Both my friend and I agreed on that leaving the theater. But see it for yourself and decide.

Talking Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets

Quick post today.  Just wanted to share with you guys my friends and my discussion on the 2nd Harry Potter movie- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I’m battling a bit of an illness but I think it came across pretty well. What do you think of this movie? I found it was more stale than I remembered it. Hopefully the next one will be stronger as it was always my favorite. I would love your feedback.

Talking Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Hi friends!  Yesterday proved to be a busy day for me!  I filmed and edited 8 videos for this week and participated in a podcast style video discussion. It is the first in a monthly series we are doing leading up to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in November. Each month my friends Abby, Jeremy and Richard will join me to talk about one of the Harry Potter films.

As this is the first month we naturally are talking about the first film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone for UK). This is similar to what Jeremy, Abby and I did for our Star Wars series but this time we are joined by Richard who is a blogging friend of mine. He has been doing a detailed chapter by chapter review of the Harry Potter books on his blog so I had to include him. It was so neat to finally talk to him after reading his blog/tweets for years.

It was my first time leading a discussion with 4 people so I was a little nervous about that.  Plus, I am no Harry Potter expert but I think it turned out pretty well. I am looking forward to the next videos where hopefully I will continue to improve and so grateful to Abby, Jeremy and Richard for making time out of their Saturdays to do this with me. It really was a lot of fun.

Anyway, as far as the movie itself it’s charming in many ways but in all honesty it didn’t hold up as well as I remembered.  I understand Chris Columbus was trying to stay as true to the book but this movie should not be 2.5 hours long.  Especially in the quidditch sections I found myself getting pretty bored.

Also Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were in their first movie with this film…and it shows. I hate to say it. They are passable I guess as child actors but you can tell they aren’t like a Jacob Tremblay in Room.  It looks a little amateurish.

All that said, the introduction to Hogwarts and the magic world is very charming and fun. The British greats in the adult cast are all wonderful especially Alan Rickman as Snape.  The sets and settings feel immersive and fun and the music by John Williams as expected is perfect.

So it’s not a bad film just a little more boring than I remembered.

Overall Grade- B-

What do you think of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and what do you think of our discussion?  Thanks!