REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

Year: 2018
Directed by: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp, Ezra Miller, Katherine Waterston, Jude Law, Carmen Ejogo, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol

Written by Fiona Underhill

Unfortunately, before you can start talking about this film, there is so much that has to be discussed.

Firstly: Johnny Depp. I wrestled with even going to see this film, knowing that Depp would be in it. I’m pretty disgusted at the attitude of JK Rowling, The Davids – Heyman and Yates and Warner Brothers over Depp and I HATE that he casts a pall over what is probably my favourite film franchise. It is especially frustrating that in a world with polyjuice potions and metamorphmagus and setting the precedent of both Colin Farrell and Jamie Campbell Bower playing versions of the character, Depp could have been easily replaced and still could be. I would love to see the filmmakers finally do the right thing here. It is only because I am SO invested in this world that I went ahead and watched this film anyway. I struggled with this decision, I’m not proud of it and I fully understand people boycotting this film because of Depp. When watching and reviewing, I have tried to focus on the film around him and ignore him as much as possible.

Secondly: Rowling’s revisionism and queer-baiting. I am a HUGE Harry Potter fangirl but I and many of my fellow Potterheads are sick of Rowling coming out and saying “oh, by the way, Dumbledore was gay” or “Hermione could have been black” and trying to get points for diversity which were not apparent in the books or first films. The Cursed Child featured two teenage boys who were clearly in love with one another, but Rowling has rightly come under fire for queer-baiting because she won’t go the whole hog and make it explicit. Now that the Fantastic Beasts films have chosen to focus on young Dumbledore’s relationship with Grindelwald, Rowling should be forced to follow through with the statements she has been teasing. The extent to which The Crimes of Grindelwald does this, I will explore later in this review.

So, onto the film. I’m one of the few people who loved the first Fantastic Beasts film. Yes, it was packed with far too much plot, but the setting of 1920s New York was to die for, it had a really strong cast and stunning costume and production design (I still think about Colin Farrell’s haircut and coat all the time). One of the strongest aspects of the first film was Ezra Miller as Credence (a really compelling role and one which could be seen as a metaphor for being LGBTQ while growing up in a religious home and also for trying to live with and hide a mental illness). Credence’s scenes with Colin Farrell were electric, as Graves/Grindy took advantage of this broken, vulnerable young man who was desperate for love and a sense of belonging and set about grooming and manipulating him. I had been skeptical about Farrell’s casting beforehand, but he blew me away (yet another reason to be so angry about Depp). Samantha Morton was also reliably amazing. The world-building of Fantastic Beasts was so good, with Newt’s suitcase being the highlight. I’m not particularly a fan of Eddie Redmayne (especially when he seems to have filled his performance of Newt with tics left over from playing Stephen Hawking) or Katherine Waterston, but the supporting characters of Jacob and Queenie were amiable enough to provide enough hope for the sequels. I do like that Newt’s character is so sympathetic and caring to those who most of the world view as monsters, freaks or aliens and see them to be feared and controlled. When I heard that Miller would be returning for The Crimes of Grindelwald and that Jude Law would be young Dumbledore, I allowed myself to get excited. Add in Zoe Kravitz and Callum Turner and the cast just got extremely hot. I was just hoping that Depp would not overshadow all of the positive aspects.

The Crimes of Grindelwald moves from New York to Paris and continues the trend of being visually breath-taking. Even in ‘normal’ apartments, the attention to detail in the production design is astounding – there is just so much to take in from every corner of the frame. Even something as simple as Credence and Nagini entering an apartment via a corridor is shot and framed and designed so beautifully – the corridor lined with windows and the apartment hung with lace. The bigger set-pieces, such as the circus scene brought tears to my eyes – the thought of a magic circus, filled with fantastic beasts in the Potter universe is just so tantalising (a bit like the speakeasy nightclub scene in the first Fantastic Beasts). The costumes again are so appealing, with Kravitz’s Leta Lestrange purple outfit and Queenie’s pink shoes being particular highlights. The design of the ministries – in New York, London and Paris each have their own flavour – I never tire of seeing the green ‘London Underground’ style tiles in the British ministry. The use of a green copper statue which comes to life and shows the way into the magical world of Paris is ingenious. Being basked in the Potter universe and submerged in the sumptuous visuals is so enjoyable (for me, anyway), it makes up for a lot.

I have heard a lot of grumbling about the characters in the two Fantastic Beasts films and that no one cares about them. Yes, Redmayne is annoying, but Newt is a worthy central character to hang this franchise on. His morality is very much in keeping with the original series, he is loyal and values his friends (even if others don’t – like Neville, Luna and in the case of Fantastic Beasts; Jacob) just like Harry did. He is a protector of the downtrodden, the outcasts and there is a lot to be said for that. The new additions in this film (ignoring Depp for a moment) were successful. Law absolutely nails Dumbledore (with just the subtlest hint of an Irish lilt, as a nod to Harris) and this film does not shy away from the fact that he is morally grey, manipulative and is definitely that bitch. Leta Lestrange gets an interesting backstory and character arc and is played by the beautiful Kravitz to perfection – her English accent is a treat for the ears. Callum Turner is perfectly cast as Theseus Scamander (his physical resemblance to Redmayne is uncanny), however, the decision to make the younger Turner Newt’s older brother is perhaps unnecessary – the rivalry between the brothers may have actually worked better if Theseus was younger. I look forward to seeing where his character goes in future films. Nagini (Claudia Kim) has been a controversial character (yet another revision by Rowling) but I liked her relationship with Credence and also that her character was perhaps on an unexpected side – again, I look forward to seeing where her arc goes in the future. Nicholas Flamel was a welcome and humorous addition and this provided my favourite cameo – Jessica Williams in one of Flamel’s books. Jacob and Queenie’s characters and relationship certainly go in an unexpected direction in this film, not everyone is going to be a fan of this, but I thought it was interesting and means both characters will have plenty to do in the subsequent films. They are both fully invested and involved in this war and will not just be the light-hearted or comedic sideshow act they were in the first film.

Now we come to the plot and writing, which as with the first film, are going to be the most flawed aspects. I sincerely wish that, as she did with The Cursed Child, Rowling would give the writing reigns over to someone else on this franchise. I have heard the complaint that this film has “no plot”, but the problem is actually the opposite – it has far too much going on, as did the first film. By far the most glaringly negative aspect of The Crimes of Grindelwald for me was that in the second half of the film, the editing goes absolutely haywire as it tries to keep up with the plot. In a world in which characters can already apparate to new places in a split second, the editing makes characters just suddenly appear in new locations with no coherence. However, although plot-holes abound (once you start examining events too closely), there is a lot to enjoy here. The events return to Hogwarts and if you don’t get emotional hearing that music during the establishing shots, you must have a heart of stone. Seeing Dumbledore in Lupin’s role of Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, schooling students on patronuses using boggarts is wonderful. The actors who play young Newt and Leta are exceptional – Joshua Shea (young Newt) has obviously studied Redmayne’s mannerisms in detail, because his portrayal is completely convincing. There are several spectacular set-pieces; the afore-mentioned circus scene and a scene at the French ministry involving moving towers of records and black cat protectors were particular highlights. Newt’s basement takes over from his suitcase as a land of magic and wonders – the new beasts in this film are glorious – including a kelpie, a Chinese dragon and an expanded roster of Nifflers. This film did lean into Newt being in love with Tina a lot more than I was expecting, which was not really needed. I found the Newt, Theseus and Leta love-triangle more compelling, although it did echo the Snape, Lily and James one a bit uncomfortably.

As for Dumbledore and Grindelwald – this film did address their (ahem) ‘relationship’ more than I thought it would. There are many strong hints that they were in love – Dumbledore sees his young self with Grindelwald in The Mirror Of Erised, they share a blood bond, they were “closer than brothers” – however, all of this will prove meaningless and empty if it isn’t directly and explicitly addressed in future films. I and many others are getting increasingly angry and frustrated at all of these teases (as I said, they were there in The Cursed Child as well), in this day and age you should be able to show a homosexual relationship in any kind of film – even YA, fantasy, family and/or blockbuster films. These films do not shy away from showing heterosexual crushes amongst teens and using heterosexual love as major motivating factors for characters’ decisions. It is absolutely in keeping with the Potterverse that Dumbledore and Grindelwald loving one another would provide complications in their rivalry and it is good and interesting, but these half-hearted hints are not enough and not acceptable. Do better JK and Warner Brothers.

So, an extremely mixed bag, but for me, the good outweighed the bad. Two hours spent in the Potter universe is always going to be preferable to just about anything else I could be doing. The visuals are overwhelmingly stunning, so many of my personal boxes are ticked by setting Potter in the 1920s, it is always going to be a good time for me. I completely understand some people’s frustrations with these Fantastic Beasts films and I entirely appreciate why many people are done with Rowling. I understand people being against these films because of Depp or because of how sexuality is potentially being mishandled, however, for me, the plot and the characters, for the large part, are successful. I am invested enough in these characters (new and old) to want to see where it’s going. I desperately hope that certain decisions are made (recasting Depp, allowing Dumbledore and Grindelwald to be fully gay) to make me feel not so uncomfortable about defending these films. Rowling has certainly made many decisions that are indefensible and she deserves to be called out on them unreservedly. But I cannot help but be succumbed by the positive aspects eg. making Newt and Credence complex metaphors for much of what is going on in the world right now, which shows what Rowling can get right. And Law’s Dumbledore was SO good, I want to see him again. I just hope that this franchise goes in a positive direction.

FIONA’S RATING:

3-5

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The Hunt For Grindelwald Is On In The Final ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ Trailer

“Grindelwald has made a dramatic escape from MACUSA custody. The villainous Grindelwald has been busy gathering more followers to his cause – elevating wizards above all non-magical beings. The only one who might be able to stop him is the wizard he once called his dearest friend, Albus Dumbledore. But Dumbledore will need help from the wizard who had thwarted Grindelwald once before, his former student Newt Scamander. Newt will again be joined by Queenie and Tina Goldstein in the next film, as well as his No-Maj friend, Jacob Kowalski. However, the mission against Grindelwald will ‘test their loyalties’ as the wizarding world becomes more divided and dangerous.”

Directed by: David Yates

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Jude Law, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Johnny Depp

Release Date: November 16th, 2018

Dumbledore And Newt Head To Paris In First ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ Teaser Trailer

Directed by: David Yates

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Jude Law, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Johnny Depp

Release Date: November 16th, 2018

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John Francis Daley Confirms Involvement On ‘Flashpoint’ Film

Back in January, Variety reported that ‘Vacation’ and upcoming ‘Game Night’ directing duo John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein were in talks to direct the upcoming ‘Flashpoint’ film for Warner Bros, following the exit of Rick Famuyiwa back in 2016.

John Francis Daley has tweeted this evening to confirm he is officially onboard!

The speedster’s solo outing actually happening has been in much doubt since Famuyiwa’s exit, with lots of rumours regarding directors being circled for the project but nothing official until now. Last year hope was reignited for this solo film as it was announced at SDCC that it would be called ‘Flashpoint’ – based on the hit comic storyline. Since then, there have been more rumours of the villains we could see in Barry go up against, and whether his new ‘Justice League’ friends will appear, as they do in the comic story – at this point they are still all rumours, but now that we have our directors, the rest will follow!

When I first read Variety’s report on the duo taking on the film of my all-time favourite comic book hero, I was very sceptical. But after watching ‘Game Night‘ last week, I have faith that the pair will do the Scarlet Speedster justice and could actually deliver the humour and stylish flair Barry Allen needs in his film. The duo also did a cracking job penning the script for ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’, which had the correct dose of humour for Tom Holland’s Peter Parker. In my eyes, Ezra is a fantastic Barry Allen and I can’t wait to see more of him – hopefully with Kiersey Clemons’ Iris West at his side for some of the film!

Justice League

Year: 2017
Directed by: Zack Snyder
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Ciarán Hinds, Amy Adams, J.K. Simmons, Diane Lane

Written by Tom Sheffield

Having thankfully managed to avoid spoilers, major plot points, and reading the opinions of film critics, I walked into the cinema at midnight last night full of hope and excitement – and I left completely blown away by what I just witnessed. I think even the DCEU sceptics reading this will be find themselves pleasantly surprised with ‘Justice League’ and the direction it takes.  I will avoid writing any spoilers in this review as I strongly feel that it would really dampen your viewing experience if you knew what to expect!

Following the death of Superman, Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince attempt to assemble a team to be humanity’s defence against a new threat to Earth. The pair recruit rookie speedster Barry Allen (The Flash), half-human half-Atlantean Arthur Curry (Aquaman), and Victor Stone (Cyborg), who was recently brought back to life through the power of a Motherbox. The team must come together to stop Steppenwolf and his terrifying Parademons gaining the Motherboxes.

Affleck, Gadot, Momoa, Miller, and Fisher are a delight to watch on screen together. Whilst their characters don’t always see eye to eye, it’s clear to see the cast had a blast working together. Each has their moment to shine, and boy do they deliver! Miller was a standout for me, but I may be a little bias with Flash being my all-time favourite superhero. Miller was the perfect choice for Barry and his humour and charisma were spot on. The cast as a whole were brilliant in their respective roles, so I tip my hat to Snyder and the folks in casting for their choices!

Ciarán Hinds lends a menacing voice to Steppenwolf, and whilst his performance is respectable, the poor CGI is quite attention drawing and sadly weakens his stature as a villain. Steppenwolf shines when he comes face to face with the League – but I couldn’t help but feel we didn’t get to see enough of him. Hopefully this is something that can be resolved in the inevitable extended cut.  Witnessing Henry Cavill back in action as Superman was a beautiful sight to behold – and whilst my review will remain spoiler-free, it’s easy to spot which scenes were part of Whedon’s reshoots as the FX team attempt to CGI-out Cavill’s moustache he grew for ‘Mission Impossible 6’.

Unfortunately, during the filming of ‘Justice League’ Zack Snyder had to step away from the project to be with his family following the tragic loss of his daughter. Joss Whedon, who was already working with Snyder on the film, was asked to step in as Director and finish the film – which included reshoots. Anyone familiar with Snyder and Whedon’s portfolio can easily pick out who directed and wrote the dialogue in which scene, but thankfully they gel well enough together to deliver a sturdy and action-packed 120 minutes. It is a real shame the film got cut to pieces, with lots of footage from the teasers and trailers nowhere to be seen – a thread of which can be found here – but following the bashing the previous films received, it’s understandable (but not welcome) why Warner Bros. would limit the film’s content and run-time to try and appeal to the general audience.

In another twist during the production, Junkie XL was replaced by Danny Elfman as the composer for the film. In all honesty, his score as a whole was a little underwhelming, but there are a few notable moments where the score gave me actual goosebumps , and when you watch the film you’ll know EXACTLY which scenes I mean. Hearing some familiar notes just added to the joy and wonder of what I was witnessing. It really did give off JLA vibes and I felt like I was witnessing my childhood come to life in front of my very eyes.  I would have loved for Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL to score the film, but I guess we don’t always get what we want!

To wrap up, ‘Justice League’ is popcorn blockbuster of epic proportions. Zack Snyder’s  vision comes to fruition with the return of Superman, and with him, the return of hope for the future of the DCEU. I’ve made no secret of my admiration for Snyder and his work, and if this happens to be his final directorial work within the DCEU (which I really hope it isn’t) then he should be proud of his trilogy and what he’s achieved.  ‘Justice League’ is full of heart, humour, and most importantly…hope. It’s flawed and suffers in places with bad CGI, but to finally see these characters on the big screen together and to witness the group dynamic come to life with such an incredible cast is just a childhood dream come true.

You’ll also want to remain seated for the TWO post credit scenes, and believe me, they are well and truly worth it. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Tom’s Rating: 7.0/10

Explosive New ‘Justice League’ Trailer Has Arrived!

Directed by: Zack Snyder
Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Ciarán Hinds, Amber Heard, J.K. Simmons
Release Date: 17th November 2017

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We’re All In For The Brand New ‘Justice League’ Trailer

“Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s (Henry Cavill) selfless act, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists newfound ally Diana Prince to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes — Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash — it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.”

Directed By: Zack Snyder / Joss Whedon
Cast: Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, Amber Heard, Ciarán Hinds
Release Date: 17th November 2017

New Synopsis Suggests Wonder Woman Is To Lead The ‘Justice League’

‘Justice League’ merchandise is making it’s way in to stores as we have just under 100 days before it’s release. One eagle eyed fan spotted a Mera Mattel doll which had a new synopsis for ‘Justice League’ on the back, and whilst the synopsis itself doesn’t offer anything new, it does centre around Wonder Woman. This could settle arguments between fans over who is going to be the leader of the League.

“Once again, Wonder Woman must demonstrate her ability as a fierce warrior. Facing a great enemy, she and Batman join forces to recruit a group of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. Having formed an unprecedented League of heroes, they set out to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.”

The current official synopsis, which focuses on Batman, reads:

“Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s (Henry Cavill) selfless act, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) enlists newfound ally Diana Prince to face an even greater threat. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to recruit a team to stand against this newly awakened enemy. Despite the formation of an unprecedented league of heroes — Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash — it may be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.”

 

Solo ‘Flash’ Film Will Adapt Flashpoint Storyline

During Warner Bros.’ presentation in Hall H today there was a list of films shown for what we can expect in the near future for the DCEU. Whilst most of them were films we would expect on the list, one appears to have had a name change. 

On the list included: Justice League, The Batman, Suicide Squad 2, Wonder Woman 2. Green Lantern Corps, Justice League Dark, Batgirl, Shazam and…. Flash Point! 

Flashpoint refers to a 2011 ‘The Flash’ storyline which saw Barry Allen transported to an alternative DC universe, one in which Bruce Wayne was killed instead of his parents, leading Thomas Wayne to become a much darker Batman and Martha’s grief sends her insane and ultimately leads her to become the Joker. Now this could be very interesting to see on the big screen. Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohan played the Wayne parenys in the opening titles of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ before we witnessed their deaths as the hands of a mugger, so I think it would be brilliant to see them portay their characters alternative selves in Flashpoint. Also in this alternative universe, there’s all out war between the Amazonians and Atlanteans, leading Wonder Woman to go head to head against Aquaman, which again would surely be a sight to behold on the big screen!

There’s still now news on who will direct Flash’s solo outing, so we can expect a number of DCEU films to go into development and release before we witness an alternative DCEU. It’s currently scheduled for a 2020 release, but this could be pushed back further. 

 

Written by Tom Sheffield