#REVIEW: “FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
At the end of the deliciously sweet and charming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the chemistry between Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and wizard cop Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) is established and we hope they wind-up together, like Tina’s psychic sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) has with schlubby, non-magical Polish baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler). Credence (Ezra Miller) seems not to have survived after almost destroying 1927 New York City and the powerful dark wizard Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), had been captured and locked away.
In the significantly darker and slightly bloated sequel, FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD, Grindelwald has escaped in an outstanding sequence where he is flying the in the air in a sled led by dragon-like creatures, looking like a demented Santa from an evil parallel universe. He is looking to fulfill his dream of raising full blood wizards to rule the world.
Meanwhile, back in London, Newt is still tending to his magical creatures, still pining for Tina who is in Paris and is reunited with Jacob and Queenie. He continues to have a contentious relationship with his brother, Theseus (Callum Turner) who is now engaged to Newt’s ex-girlfriend Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz). In another sumptuously-filmed sequence set on a foggy night on a London bridge, Newt reunites with his former teacher, a middle-aged Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), who urges Newt to go to Paris and capture Grindelwald. Newt quickly obliges as he hopes he can also reunite with Tina while in Paris.
I wrote earlier that this Sequel is bloated, but I mean that in a satisfying “shouldn’t have eaten that fourth chocolate croissant” way! Director David Yates was behind the camera for the last instalment and four of the Harry Potter films; his love for all the characters: wizards, humans and beasts, is apparent and contagious and the action sequences are plentiful with special events exceeding expectations. The Costume Designs are dazzling and the Set Design is impressive. Screenwriter J.K. Rowling introduces a slew of new characters and back stories that may overwhelm those who are only looking for lighter entertainment fare but I was overjoyed to be made to pay attention, decipher and digest all this new information, despite some hiccups. I would have preferred a better reason why Jacob remembers everything magical that happened in the past and this time around, the character of Credence was underwritten, with Ezra Miller more alluring than ever before. However, Rowling’s decision to take this series to darker places, invoking the Nazis rise to power, must be commended and applauded.
The performances by the Lead Actors is another bowl of beasts! I continue to admire Eddie Redmayne’s characterization of Newt Scamander. The endearing shyness, the lock of unruly curls framing his face, his undeniable strength and knowledge, plus his love for the coterie of beasts he tends to still shines. As Jacob, Dan Fogler continues to make me smile and who can deny not loving Alison Sudol as the unflappable Queenie. Zoe Kravitz, Jude Law and Callum Turner are welcome additions to the Franchise as well, adding more layers to an already engrossing set of stories. In addition to the under-written role of Credence, Ezra Miller sadly plays it one note, unlike Katherine Waterston who uses her criminally-little screen time to its full advantage. And then there is Johnny Depp. In a Movie filled with wizards and humans, Depp’s Grindelwald sports a trendy hairdo and different coloured eyes. His foppish dialect is not in-sync with the rest of the Movie and, quite honestly, a tad jarring.
Minor quibbles aside, FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD takes the audience to new, darker and exciting new places, as well as the Harry Potter universe. Not only do I want to revisit this Movie soon, the final Plot twist and reveal has me salivating in anticipation.
Warner Bros. Canada release FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD Friday, November 16, 2018.