16th Nov2018

‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Johnny Depp, Kevin Guthrie, Carmen Ejogo, Wolf Roth, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Derek Riddell, Ezra Miller, Cornell John | Written by J.K. Rowling | Directed by David Yates

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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the pinnacle of what is wrong with the modern day blockbuster. The second of an intended five installment franchise in J.K. Rowling’s prequel series to the enormously critically acclaimed and well-received Harry Potter franchise, the film showcases the delinquency behind such a saga which has already buckled under the enormous pressure of anticipation and efficient story.

David Yates film undoubtedly wears a docile heart on its bland sleeve. It has moments through its running time that evoke a semi-engaging emotional provocation: through small incidents of character and relative significance of political ignorance, that unfortunately plagues the audience after the fact. These moments of engagement are far and few in between, justified by the writers with little sense – though the fact the film wants to take multiple twists and turns to create a mystery thriller ultimately results in a damp, tame and rushed element of poor and convoluted sub-plots, that engulf an already bloated pig of a film. The film’s plot, simply put – a difficult feat considering the almost disastrous structure and the story – is merely a 140-minute set-up for the next installment. It simply does not work on its own accord, not able to stand on its own two feet via a fulfilling portion of efficient storytelling. That result feels like a cash grab due to the lacklustre attempt to create a compelling installment. Concerning itself in inconsequential and redundant plots that fill a film which struggles to get from a simple A to B plot points.

The editing, by seasoned Harry Potter editor and veteran by Mark Day, is downright atrocious. The sheer amount of poor and bizarre choices implemented in this production are stunning. Sequences go from using a tripod camera set up straight into a handheld set-up in the same scene. Resulting in not only an incredibly jarring scene but subtextually falls flat, not adding anything in terms of creating an atmosphere in the mise-en-scene. Day also chooses to implement extreme close-ups in sequences between young Newt and Leta at Hogwarts that are barbaric. It looks horrific – comparable to that of a student film or a home movie production. What is more horrific is how such decisions were either allowed, or passed a final cut. These small moments of utter incompetence are detrimental in the total failure of a production.

The performances aren’t any better, nor even the slightest of a highlight in a film that doesn’t have much going for it, even in the vivid and imaginative design of the wizarding world. The Crimes of Grindelwald titular villain, played by Johnny Depp, hides behind monologues, which to his credit are delivered with flavour but feel inconsequential. Only one scene showcases the evil behind his plan and the act itself is performed by a sidekick rather than the villain itself, who ultimately does as much as nothing to showcase his terror. The title for one is nowhere showcased in the film. Redmayne’s character shuffles and his awkwardness, by now, will either distract or feel natural to the character, depending on your feeling for the actor himself. The connectivity here with his character arc feels hollow and stretched, adding little to the already little that this franchise has offered. Waterson is drastically wasted in a performance that is rendered almost mute, with the screenplay finding little verbal activity for such an interesting character and performer for that matter. Law, playing Dumbledore for the first time in this elongated series impresses but is relegated to a bloated cameo, serving a slice of docile fan service with little impact or intrigue.

The experience itself to witness the film develop is quite frankly, painful. The second and third act, in particular, are ever so bland and bleached of any and all atmosphere. From the fiercely-paced and abruptly-edited opening action sequence, to the adventure sequences that are few and  far between, to character arcs and dialogue – all are atrocious, to be kind. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald drags itself to the finish line and conjures up a last-minute twist and cliffhanger that is ever so ridiculous, boring and – for any fan of the series – ever so clear how it will play out in the next entry, offering little incentive to head back into this rich world. This cliffhanger inadvertently personifies what is wrong with this series and installment specifically: it’s flat and devoid of any new ideas; similar to that of Rian Johnsons latest Star Wars entry The Last Jedi. Thinking, in order to inject a layer of surprise is to contradict and nullify what has come before it. Yet, ultimately and sadly, it slowly begins to rot both the audience and the franchise that has built the house… and what will be planted after it.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is in cnemas now.

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