FANTASTIC: BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD
Director: David Yates
Screenwriter: J.K. Rowling
Runtime: 134 mins.
Australian release date: 15 November 2018
Previewed at: Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney, on 12 November 2018.
What the Dickens! Is this J.K. Rowling channelling Game of Thrones? Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the sequel to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them and it seems to have become even more complex than its predecessor. Granted, we’ve always been in a world of wizards and Muggles (or ‘No-Majs’ or the ‘Spell-less’) and, yes, in FBAWTFT we had the Ministry of Magic, but now we’ve got the French, American and British branches of the Ministry, and all of these groups seem to contain plotters and schemers, Aurors and alchemists, factions and sub-groups, alliances and traitors. It’s beginning to look like a political party!
The convoluted plot follows Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) as they attempt to take down the Dark Wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). When Grindelwald vowed to ignore the International Statute of Secrecy and overthrow the delicate balance between the wizarding world and the Muggles, he set in motion a complex chain of events that led to his imprisonment in NYC by the Magical Congress of the USA at the conclusion of FBAWTFT. Needless to say, he vowed he would break out and in the beginning of The Crimes of Grindelwald, in 1927, he does that very thing, but the escape scenes are so fast and frenetic that it’s hard to tell what’s really happening. It’s almost as though the film speed has been intentionally increased although in actuality it’s down to Mark Day’s rapid editing. The only certainty is that the Dark Wizard is free to carry out his nefarious plan. The rest is a bit of a blur. And, indeed, you might say that of Rowling’s entire script. No doubt Harry Potter fandom will scratch their collective heads and ask what is so hard to follow but for viewers of the films, as against readers of the books (yes, I know the Fantastic Beast films only exist as screenplays, but still…), it requires close attention to pick up on all the nuances of the multitude of relationships on show and the allusions to the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s. It’s also a bit bloodless. Scamander is a difficult hero to cheer for.
The second film in the Fantastic Beast film series and the tenth in Rowling’s wizarding world initiated by Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, has, it goes without saying, fabulous visual effects. Newt may say, “There are no strange creatures, only blinkered people,” but there are certainly many odd beasties here. Of particular note is the Zouwu, sort of a cross between a Pekingese dog and a Chinese dragon, the Kelpie, a type of seahorse made only of seaweed, the dear little Bowtruckle returns and the Niffler is back (with some very cute babies). And there are many more. After leaving New York, the film travels to London and, for most of the action, Paris. The production design and costumes are superb, intentionally harking back to British film noir movies of the period in which it is set. In addition to Redmayne, with all the usual distracting tics and mannerisms he exhibited before, Depp, who’s very good here as the brooding Grindelwald, and Law, excellent as always, many of the actors from FBAWTFT are back for this edition, e.g. Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Katherine Waterston and Zoë Kravitz, plus a few new ones, and an expanded role for Ezra Miller’s Credence Barebone.
Three more films in the Fantastic Beast series have been announced and David Yates, the English director responsible for all the Harry Potter films since 2007 and both FB films, is attached to direct them all. One assumes that J.K. Rowling will also be back to script them but, as she delves deeper and deeper into her wizarding world, I hope she remembers we mere Muggles, or the films will have to be released with explanatory notes for the No-Majs!