Wednesday, November 21, 2018

"Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" (2018) -- Initial Thoughts


You may recall that I really loved Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016).  In fact, I named it my #1 favorite new-to-me film of that year (though now I love Rogue One better, but that's neither here nor there).

So yes, my hopes were high.  Manageably high, I thought, but high.  With Jude Law coming aboard as Dumbledore and the promise of a lot more Johnny Depp, plus reunited with four characters I've grown to love after watching the first movie many times, what could go wrong?

Um, so things did go wrong.  I'm not saying I hated it, and in fact, I want to go see it again.  I'm going to read the screenplay as soon as I finish the book I'm currently on.  BUT.  This movie has problems.  Mainly, the picture above is the problem.  How many people are in that photo?  Sixteen?  Yeah, sixteen.  How many of those were in the first movie?  Six.

SIX.

Ten new characters.  Well, really nine, because we already know and love Dumbledore from the Harry Potter books.  But still.  NINE NEW CHARACTERS, people.  Nine out of sixteen.  That's way too many new people for me to have to invest in, while still keeping me invested in the four (fine, five, counting Dumbledore) I already loved.  It's just not going to happen. 

And it didn't.  I couldn't emotionally invest in the film because I never had time to.

(SPOILAGE FROM HERE ON OUT, both minor and major.  YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.) 

The new characters who were actually interesting, namely Nagini (Claudia Kim) and Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner), got almost no screen time until the end, when I was suddenly told to care about their sadness?  And the new character who got lots of backstory, namely Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz), I never cared about because the writing was there, but the acting just wasn't.  Everyone else in this film was doing everything they could with their limited screen time, and she had all kinds of time to be interesting, but never was.

As for Jacob (Dan Fogler), he still stole every scene he came anywhere near.  But he was barely part of the film.  His "I always wanted to GO here!" was basically my favorite moment in the whole thing.  Queenie (Alison Sudol) got sidelined to the point where her character arc didn't make sense -- she's afraid she's going mad, and afraid of losing Jacob?  Those are two FASCINATING things to dig into, and... we never dug.  She just got moved from point A to point B and we never delved into why and how and all the juicy emotions we should be dealing with there.  Plus, in the first film, Queenie was this beautiful, surprising blend of flibbertigibbit and street-savvy.  Where did that go???

Newt (Eddie Redmayne) fared little better.  He's got some pretty juicy emotions to deal with himself, like how does he feel about the girl he loved in school getting engaged to his brother?  And then sacrificing herself for them both?  Redmayne shows us a lot just through good acting, but we should have had time to see him process this.  Instead it's bop from one action piece to the next and one plot moment to the next with no time for the characters or us to process anything. 

Poor Tina (Katherine Waterston) was barely in this movie.  I'm very angry about this.  Tina's a super-cool, fresh, unique female character, and she was handed a "play the jealous female" storyline and left there.  I hate this.  I wanted to see Tina being quirky and curious and passionate like she was in the first movie, and instead, she's almost ignored.

There were very few fantastic beasts, especially compared to the first movie.  And the titular crimes of Grindelwald were what exactly?  He kills a bunch of wizards at the end.  He has his henchmen kill some people so he can steal their house.  He uses polyjuice potion to switch places with his guard, and his guard's tongue got cut out/mutilated in the process.  He throws a little monster thing off a flying coach for being too needy.  Those aren't the kinds of crimes that get you a movie title, usually.  I guess you could add lying and manipulating to them, but still.  He wasn't all that much of a Big Bad, just Johnny Depp creeping it up whenever he managed to get a moment of screentime.

So.  Um.  Yeah.  It's not that I disliked this movie, honest.  It's just that it very much frustrated and disapointed me with its lack of focus, bloated cast, and lack of emotional content.  Rowling can do better; these filmmakers can do better; doggone it, live up to your potential, people!

16 comments:

  1. Wait a minute . . .

    Sixteen characters you're supposed to follow and care about? SIXTEEN???

    I know Charity said it was way too loose, but I had no idea it was this loose . . .

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    1. Um, yes. Though to be fair, there are 4 of them that we're really not asked to care MUCH about. But still.

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  2. I have mixed feelings, honestly. Like, a big part of me suspects I'll follow it better my second time through -- but another part of me thinks I shouldn't HAVE to watch it twice to know what's going on! And yes, basically -- too many characters. I didn't care about any of them. The ones I DID care about (the original four) were sidelined. Queenie was acting way out of character SPOILERS (she put Jacob under a love spell and was going to marry him against his will?!? and then she joined Grindelwald?!? NO.)

    Credence was heartbreaking in the first movie, and... not, here. I was as angry and frustrated as him by the time the "big reveal" (which IMO, is either a totally obvious manipulative lie or Rowling has some explaining to do later) came around.

    Johnny Depp is awesome. If you have him in your movie, USE HIM. That goes for Jude Law, too. His Dumbledore scenes were my favorite, because you get to see the cunning Dumbledore, before he becomes an old wizard obsessed with weird socks and knitting patterns.

    Did we even need most of the Ministry characters? The dude who followed Newt around? The other dude who Grindelwald turned? I guess that's to show us how he's infiltrated all the ranks?

    There were some wonderful moments -- like Newt and what's her face, his redheaded assistant who's totally in love with him, and he's clueless. And his comment about salamander eyes. And frankly, the big scene with Grindelwald where he shows them WWII is coming and recruits them against the Nazis. THAT is when I saw Rowling at her finest. But my gosh, this movie was a mess.

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    1. Charity, yes, I really do want a second viewing because even while watching it, I was like, "I need to see that thing more clearly. I didn't quite catch this line." Second viewings are always important. BUT you're so right that we shouldn't be actually confused after the first viewing. A second viewing should expand, not explain.

      Credence was wasted here, I agree. And yes to the obviousness that you should not WASTE Johnny Depp or Jude Law.

      Honestly, all the Ministry stuff was basically useless. Could have streamlined the whole thing by trimming them to a couple scenes of "We're sending Newt's brother after the dude."

      The beginning was so promising, hanging out with Newt and his assistant and all the critters. There were flashes of joy and brilliance. But flashes are not enough.

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    2. You're supposed to, with a second viewing, pick up on all you missed and go OOOH NOW I SEE HOW THEY LAID THE CAREFUL GROUNDWORK. :P

      Yes, all the intro scenes for everyone was useless. And then there's the fact that Newt is banned from international travel and that... never comes up again. I mean, there's no consequences for that, right? No one showed up to harass him about it. So there's a dead plot thread. And I get that having traitors in the Ministry is supposed to show how powerful G is, but... it really just weighs down the plot.

      It felt like a movie, getting to a point where it's leading TO a movie, you know?

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    3. Charity, exactly! That's why I LOVE second viewings.

      I guess Newt being banned from traveling internationally made him a big rebel for doing it anyway? Or something? Maybe it'll bite him in the butt in the next movie?

      But yes, exactly, it felt like opening scenes with no middle and finale.

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  3. I'll have to come back to this after I watch it.

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  4. This sounds challenging, and perhaps not worth the effort. Nonetheless, I will be watching. Afraid it will be without the hubby who did not enjoy the earlier film as much as I did. It makes for an awkward experience. A rewatch of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the first order of the day. Let some time pass and then tackle this sequel.

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    1. If you enjoyed Fantastic Beasts, then yes, definitely watch this at some point. Even though it failed to live up to the first film, it's still quite cool. I have hopes for seeing it again before it leaves theaters, actually. So it's not awful, it's just not... sparkly and wonderful.

      My hubby isn't as into almost every film series as I am, so I understand that!

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  5. My collected thoughts now that I've seen the movie:

    - Credence's storyline is so convoluted I gave up trying to make sense of it long before the end; and since it's supposed to be the buildup to this Big Reveal . . . the emotional investment just wasn't THERE. "Yeah, sure, he's a Dumbledore. Next thing I know you're gonna be trying to tell me he's a Potter too. I've had about enough of this."

    - Plus, his acting was so darn wooden and he just seemed to have zero emotions besides what the plot absolutely needed to have. He was like a robot version of the little bird in "Are You My Mother?", except that little bird was actually cute; and Credence . . . wasn't. I wanted to care about his loneliness!!! I really did!!! He just made it impossible.

    - Queenie's demonstrated thought processes were idiotic to the extreme. I just could not believe she could be so stupid as to ACTUALLY THINK Grindelwald would let her marry Jacob, when his entire platform is literally "non-wizards are inferior and separate." She risked everything, walked through a fire, and went over to the bad side against the repeated pleadings of her boyfriend, for THAT?!?!?

    - I'm sorry, but having three separate women in love with your male lead is an embarrassment to everyone involved. Chill, Rowling, your crush is showing. (And look, I'm not saying the guy's not cute and sweet and adorable. He is. That's just a bit too much.)

    - Tina seemed to me far too level-headed to fall for that dumb society magazine stuff. Or, even if she did, I'm sure she'd have cleared it up with Newt in two seconds once she saw him again, simply by asking a few straightforward questions. Why are all the girls in this film acting so silly????

    - Newt had no goal. That annoyed me perhaps most of all. I thought, from the trailers, that this movie was gonna be about him tracking down Grindelwald, since Dumbledore couldn't . . . but that wasn't it at all! Newt didn't care about Grindelwald till the very end!!! Basically all he did was bumble around ineffectually chasing after Tina, until he wound up at Grindelwald's big rally almost by accident. That seemed a waste of somebody who seemed like they COULD be super heroic and brave, if the filmmakers just let them set their mind to it.

    So yeah. I want to see the other movies and so on . . . but this one Disappointed Me.

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    1. [Dang. I had no idea that would get this long. Sowwy!]

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    2. Jessica, I want you to see the first movie so you like the characters, because they ARE likeable, they just weren't allowed to shine in this like they should have.

      And oooof, you're so right! Newt had no goal. It was like he was an extra in his own story. Badly done, JKR.

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    3. I do want to see the first film, yes!! I remember you saying how much you loved it, and how cool Newt was . . .

      An extra in his own story. *nods many times* Absolutely. And it wasn't a good look on him; he has so much potential and doesn't deserve to be just an extra.

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    4. I can't imagine how you weren't totally lost in this movie, having never seen the first one. o.O

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    5. Charity and Jessica, yes, I kind of can't imagine even wanting to go see a movie like this that is just in the middle of things, without having seen earlier stuff. Another person I know went to see this without having seen the first movie AND without having ever seen any Harry Potter movies OR read the books. I would find that terrifyingly confusing. I mean, I know I jumped into Avengers without having seen the previous MCU movies... but I knew the characters a bit from comics previously, and I had a best friend assuring me I would not be lost, that it laid enough groundwork that you'd understand characters and world...

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