Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
seen @ UA Kaufman Astoria 14, Astoria, Queens NY

I guess it was only a matter of time before I got sucked into the world of Harry Potter.

I never got into the series of books, or their film adaptations, for reasons I went into here — and yet, I can tell you the basic, most rudimentary things about the character without having read a single page or watched a single frame. I guess that's how you know an IP has blown up.

From studying novel writing, I've learned a bit about J. K. Rowling. I know she created Potter at a time in her life when she was down and out, for instance.

Credit where credit's due: she tapped into something in the zeitgeist that touched adults as well as young adults, something that comes along once a generation; I still remember seeing folks — ordinary-looking people, not stereotypical fans — read those colorful hardcover bricks on the subway and wondering what the deal was.

This was when my definition of "young adult," in terms of the book industry, was rigid. I understand now that just because they're written for kids and teens doesn't necessarily mean they're written down for them. Maybe that's partly why adaptations of The Hunger Games and their ilk have become so popular in Hollywood.

The point is, I didn't give a fiddler's fart about Potter when it first took off. So why have I gotten involved with him now?

Like many great stories, it began with a girl.

First, I should make clear that I've entered through the side door: the Fantastic Beasts franchise is a spin-off of the Potter films, set in the past, before Master Harry came along, and a way for Universal to continue to make money off of him.

And then she came along. The moment she stepped into my office, I knew she was trouble! Those eyes, that hair...

Yeah, okay, obviously you're not buying it. Actually, Sandi texted me last week saying she wanted to see this with me. I wanted to see Ralph Breaks the Internet, but there's no changing Sandi's mind once it's set on something.

Besides, the last time I saw her was back in September at her birthday party, and her life has been pretty stressful lately, so in the end, this was more about hanging out with her than any interest in the Potterverse.

At least the title is intriguing: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Who's he (or she), and what crimes did he commit? For that matter, what are the fantastic beasts? I remember mocking the poster for the first movie for not even hinting at them. Maybe now I'll finally get to see some.

Okay, so Eddie Redmayne is the star; you could say he's the Doctor Dolittle of the Potterverse. He collects the titular fantastic beasts like they were Pokemon and does stuff with them. I wasn't very clear what the deal was with that. He goes to Hogwarts, though he must be a graduate student or something.

I totally did not recognize Johnny Depp as ol' Grindy, even though he didn't have that much makeup. I thought he looked like Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys.

Anyway, he wants wizards to rule the world because he's tired of living in secret or something like that. He recruits people to his cause, including some of the good guys and this one dude in particular who's trying to figure out where he comes from. I thought Depp was as dull as dishwater.

There's a subplot involving an ordinary guy who's in love with a witch. They were the only interesting ones, mostly because they were the only funny ones.

There are black people in the Potterverse (and at least one Asian)! And they get to do plot-related things! And they actually live to the end of the movie! (Boy, that one shocked the hell out of me.)

Oh, and Jude Law as young Dumbledore, who is totally gay.

My god, this movie was grim to a fault. The Avengers and the Guardians are people you wanna hang out with; the world/universe may be exploding around them, but they have the ability to not take it all so serious, unlike these wankers (I feel justified in using British slang to review a British-set movie).

I'd watch a movie starring these two.
It'd be like a modern-day Bewitched!

Sandi kept insisting I didn't need to see the first movie to get this one, but if that were true, I wouldn't have asked her as many questions as I did during the film. By the third act I gave up trying to figure it out because I was bored by it all: the self-importance, the grimness, the gee-whiz special effects, the overstuffed cast (though the castle that serves as the Hogwarts campus is quite beautiful. Hope it's not just CGI).

JKR wrote the screenplay, so I guess these characters are all her creations. No doubt she has enough power to do what she wants in Hollywood, but while some aspects of the Potterverse are kinda interesting, it's nowhere near enough for me to care. Nice try.

Potter and Oscar


  1. We were slow to getting into Potter. Janet was a couple of years behind her friends' obsession before she got into it. She insisted Garry and I read the books. He did, and told me "Yeah. You'll like it." I resisted, but told Janet I would read the first one if she would read a P.G. Wodehouse. It was win-win. She became a Wodehouse fan, and Garry and I kept on reading the Potter books even when she had moved on by the last one.

    I get what you are saying about Fantastic Beasts. I rather felt the same way about the first one and haven't gathered up any interest for this sequel.

  2. The worst part is, since JKR wrote this screenplay, that makes me think the Potter movies, if not the books, are in a similar grim-n-gritty vein, and that makes me less inclined to watch them. Maybe I'm wrong, but give me the Guardians every time.


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