Movie Night: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Year: 2018
Genre: Fantasy
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler

The  second installment of the “Fantastic Beasts” series featuring the adventures of Magizoologist New Scamander.

I was curious at the critical dislike for this movie, considering how successful “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” was back in 2016. In fairness, I didn’t go to see this movie in theaters when it was released, although I do regret that – if nothing else, the Wizarding World films have proved to be some of the most visually spectacular in recent cinema history.

After a while, I began to assume the hate was directed at poor casting choices, or controversial thematic material (e.g. Dumbledore’s alluded-to romance with Grindelwald), but I never really paid much attention until I finally watched the film the other night.

I thought it was great.

No, really – I actually very much enjoyed it. I do think I understand some of the criticism levied at it – in particular the plethora of characters, the inexplicable rewriting of wizarding history, and the bizarre, one-line reference to homosexuality (I mean, either dive in and embrace it, or just forget about it) – but for me, it was a worthwhile installment in what I hope will become an excellent series.

I was afraid that Johnny Depp would bring his characteristically outrageous performance to Gellert Grindelwald and ruin the character; I was also disappointed at the casting of an American in a distinctly European role. I was also afraid that Jude Law, who in my eyes can really only play a villain, would ruin Dumbledore for me.

I’m glad to say I was wrong. Depp was surprisingly understated and reserved – just what was called for. Law was able to be both charismatic, charming and dangerous – exactly what I wanted Dumbledore to be. And the supporting cast all performed admirably, as well.

The movie isn’t without imperfections; as a sequel to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, Newt Scamander’s role is becoming somewhat relegated to the sidelines of another story. In fact, it really seems like the first film should have stood on its own, and this one been called something else entirely. I agree with the criticism of having a large number of characters, but not with the idea that there are too many to care about; I’m used to plentiful characters from Rowling’s novels, and it fit the feel of what she’s created in the past.

In the end, I’m glad I watched it, and although it’s no “Deathly Hallows”, it holds a dear place in my heart as a continuation of Rowling’s admirable magical world.

8/10 would watch again.

J.K. Rowling once again creates more than fantastic beasts.

I realize I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I just came back from watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Oddly enough, Little Satis didn’t particularly want to see it, though I’m not certain why; he’s loved everything related to Harry Potter for years.

In any case, I went in with deliberately low expectations, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a spin-off. Spin-offs are rarely any good (in my experience). Second, it’s not a book. And whilst the Harry Potter series is certainly not without its flaws, J.K. Rowling clearly proved herself as a fantastic author of books. The films that followed were better or worse, depending on the movie, but they couldn’t compare to the books, simply because they aren’t books. Adaptations, by necessity, are abbreviated.

In my estimation, she’s outdone herself.

And I have to say, I found myself pleasantly surprised. Granted, Rowling had some practice with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in terms of writing for the stage, but this is, to my understanding, her first attempt at developing a fully-fledged screenplay, dedicated to being seen on film.

And in my estimation, she’s outdone herself. I just finished writing an article about character development for the review blog Girl Who Reads (look for it on Friday!), and I rather wish I had had this movie to talk about in terms of what that looks like as a success. Despite introducing us to an almost entirely new set of characters (even Gellert Grindlewald is only referenced in the Harry Potter books), Rowling has managed to create fully living, breathing characters for whom we feel empathy, concern, and—dare I say it—love. Newt Scamander (portrayed admirably by Eddie Redmayne) is hardly a great wizard, but holds a whimsical charm that I can only compare to Bilbo Baggins—a character of values, morals and oddities. Every other character is equally well fleshed-out, with hints of backstory that are never overdone, nor ham-fisted down our throats.

The pacing is equally excellent, perhaps even better than that of her novels: whilst there is plenty of action to entertain, there are also serenely calm and beautifully charming moments that allow us to breathe, take in the surroundings, and experience once more the wizarding world that Rowling has so deftly created.

If this is Rowling’s first attempt at a screenplay, I’m excited to see what else she has in store for us. Unlike the Star Wars universe (which I also talk about on Friday), this feels like a natural expansion of the universe that we’ve come to love so dearly. There are, of course, references for the fans, but again they are not overt or in your face, and fit in well with the overall plot and pacing of the story.

Little Satis was ultimately glad to have seen the movie, and my wife, who’s hardly the biggest Potter fan in the world, enjoyed it as well. It’s one I would gladly watch again, and will proudly sit alongside the previous eight films as part of what I hope will become an ever-growing world of wizards and witches.

Movie Night: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Year: 2009

Director: David Yates

Production Company: Warner Bros.

Leads: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 1.12.59 PMContinuing on with our journey into the Potterverse, Little Satis and I sat down to watch the sixth installment of the Harry Potter movie franchise (having concluded the book sometime in the spring) for this week’s movie night. I’m not quite sure what took us so long to get around to it, given our only rule was to have read the book before watching the movie, but when all is said and done, life often gets in the way.

In it, we watch as Harry Potter, played excellently as always by the remarkable Daniel Radcliffe, embarks on his sixth year at Hogwarts, where he excels at potions thanks to a well-annotated textbook from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince. Meanwhile, the sinister Death Eaters are wreaking havoc on both the magical and muggle worlds as they follow the now-returned Lord Voldemort in his conquest to control all of…well, England? The world? I guess it was never terribly clear in the books, either.

You get a GIF!

You get a GIF!

The film seems to have two strong focal points, in keeping with the book: Dumbledore’s (Michael Gambon) insistence that Harry continue to learn more about the young Voldemort and his early rise to power, and the emotional traumas of being young and in love (Hermione and Ron, Harry and Ginny, etc.). Herein, however, lies unfortunately the film’s greatest weakness, which it shares with most of the Harry Potter film franchise. In trying too hard, I feel, to keep to the letter of the book, the film rushes its pace along, and never truly gives enough weight to the emotions and feelings of its lead characters. As the books in the series grew ever longer, trying to compact the content into a two-and-a-half hour movie became increasingly difficult, and the pacing suffers as a result. For an example of how to do an epic book conversion well, see Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: whilst many would say the films are too long, you certainly can’t fault them for taking their time over character development.

Ooh…and another!

Ooh…and another!

Then there are the small incidents that were never in the book at all, and the most egregious of these is the burning down of the Burrow. Not only did it not happen in the book, it was entirely unnecessary, leads to difficulty with setting in the following movies, and leaves a gaping plot hole: if the Death Eaters are capable of knowing perfectly well where Harry Potter is at any given moment, why didn’t Voldemort simply apparate there himself and kill him?

Having said all of that, it was still an immensely enjoyable film, and the shock of the conclusion – even knowing it from the book – was handled superbly. Alan Rickman’s portrayal of the duplicitous Severus Snape was spot-on as always, continuing to make him (even though we haven’t finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yet) my favorite character in the Potterverse.

The brilliant – and secretive – Severus Snape.

The brilliant – and secretive – Severus Snape.


★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ 

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