Showing posts with label fantastic beasts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fantastic beasts. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

(Spoiler-Free) Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Review

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Review
Warner Bros Studios Pictures
The importance of family, power of love, good vs evil – the Harry Potter series was a master at being a universal phenomenon. No matter where you came from or how you found the story, author J.K. Rowling offered a doorway into storytelling as easy as flicking your wand and make-believing you were a witch or wizard on your way to exploring her wizarding world. Ten years after her first series ended, and the start of a new chapter has begun, it's a little clearer with the Fantastic Beasts series that the story we loved is not as accessible as it used to be - whether you’re a die-hard fan of the series already or just curious about the franchise's future.

Following Newt on his adventures, the second Fantastic Beasts film travels to the Paris wizarding world where Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) promises freedom for his growing, loyal band of followers who want to be liberated from the shadows of the No-Maj/Muggle world. In trying to stop his rise to power, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) requests the help of his former student Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). Meeting in the middle are both foes and friends alike - Tina Goldstein (Katharine Waterston), Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), Leta Lestrange (Ezra Miller), Nagini (Claudia Kim), and Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner) – who called to decide which side they are on.

To say the least, there’s a lot going on in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Where the previous film Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was a mere appetizer, its follow-up is the meaty hook of what’s ahead. With three more installments on the way, Rowling as screenwriter employs all the world-building and story-development she has at her disposal– introducing new characters, uniting or pitting familiar faces against each other, and trying to connect her novels to this other set of adventures. Her revered imagination and ability to weave her ideas together are the film’s best and worst assets. 

To the sequel’s long-awaited credit, there’s no way that you can’t not feel like this film gives you your fill of exploring the wizarding world. From returning to Hogwarts to seeing new avenues of the French wizarding world, every stone feels unturned as the intricacies of the impending wizarding war connects to all of the characters’ journeys and motivations. Unlike any of the Harry Potter films he’s directed before, David Yates sheds the constricted nature of his previous installments from Order of the Phoenix and beyond to make this film as gorgeously grim as it can be. Yates and cinematographer Philippe Rousselot create fresh angles of the world we love that we haven’t seen before. With every fresh installment of the phenomenon, the escapism gets better and better from James Newton Howard’s ominous score to the glorious production design by Stuart Craig. Every time you think you’ve seen what this series has to offer, there’s more around the corner - that reason alone is what keeps fans coming back for more.

Story-wise, the film also has a lot of intricate moving parts with the characters and doesn't shy away from making this the darkest entry in the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchise. Primarily, because of Grindelwald. Similar to Voldemort, he is a grave threat against the wizarding world, a master behind the curtain pulling all of the strings. The entire ensemble is in one way or another an outsider- they don’t fit in with their peers or society. Some are searching for their long-lost identity and validation (Credence, Leta, Nagini); others have weaknesses that can be exploited by Grindelwald or help them take a stronger stance against him (Newt, Tina, Queenie, Jacob, Theseus, Yusaf). And because of that, we truly get a  sense of how powerful he is by how he uses other characters as a pawn for his vision. As moviegoers, we're left to watch what Grindelwald is capable of, and root that our favorites don't fall into his cat-and-mouse schemes. As much as the film is darker in its tone and explores human nature more, there's also a lot of lightness to be adventurous, romantic, and charming. Unlike Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, this installment has a better balance of flipping between both styles. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) Teaser Reaction

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Newt Dumbledore Poster
Photo Credit: Warner Bros Studios
Ya'll know how much I love Harry Potter, but if you dived into the penseive with me for a second...you might be surprised to know my initial reaction to Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them wasn't the rapturous adoration one might expect. Fast forward two years to today, and the first film has increasingly become one of my favorites of the series. I've watched it countless times to the point that I have it memorized, not to mention that I just want to hold Newt, Tina, Jacob, Queenie, and all of his magical creatures and never let them go.

So it's pretty exciting that after a long, controversial wait for more news about the sequel, the official teaser has finally been released! #WandsReady? Let's go! 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (2016) casts a mediocre spell

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them movie review
Photo Credit: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them / Warner Bros. Pictures
Five years ago the Harry Potter film franchise ended. I would've never believed then J.K. Rowling would be at it again. But her endless imagination apparates again to the big screen with an adaptation of the Hogwart's fictional textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.

Based in the 1920s, magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) briefly travels to New York City while en route to Arizona. Unaware of the U.S. wizarding government's ban on magical beasts, Scamander's creatures are in danger when they're accidentally set loose. No-Maj - American equivalent to Muggle - Jacob Kowalski (Dan Folger), a former Auror Tina Goldstein (Katharine Waterston) and her sister Queenie (Allison Sudol) team up with the British native to catch his critters before the wizarding world is exposed.

Veteran Harry Potter director David Yates returns to helm this next franchise with Rowling tackling the role of screenwriter. By reputation, this duo have some fair expectations to live up to but also the freedom to start from scratch. Introducing a new collection of characters into a familiar setting is no easy feat, and together they conjure an enjoyable flick.

Mainly we ride the Hufflepuff coattails of bashful and awkward Scamander. He's naturally more comfortable with animals than people, but instead of fully succumbing to a fear of not fitting in, he protects his unique "beasts" from being abused or mistreated by other wizards. His creatures are absolutely adorable (GIVE ME A NIFFLER AND BOW TRUCKLE NOW PLEASE), and the story lovingly explores his struggling relationship with humanity.

Along with him for the ride are two witches and a No-Maj. Career gal Tina Goldstein might do anything to get back into the President's good graces but her doubts against Scamander are transformed by his sweet but oblivious nature. Her vivacious sister Queenie uses her telepathic gifts to help, and they all develop a close friendship with Jacob (beautifully played by Folger). Each character is connected by the world ostracizing them. Their humility, warmth, and kindness unites them to face mayhem and create a little mischief together.

But a few other minor characters bewitched my interest a little bit more. No-Maj Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton) runs a horrific crusade against witches and wizards. She takes advantage of impoverished children by invoking fear of evil and witchcraft to earn their trust and implement her beliefs. One of her children, a traumatized teenager Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), is secretly taken advantage of by a mysterious wizard (Colin Farrell). Morton's intimidating presence, alongside Farrell's dark intentions, creates quite a startling difference from Scamander's humorous escapades. As a trio, they effectively stand-out, especially Miller. Their scenes could've been a fascinating movie of it's own.

Like the Harry Potter films, the locations are almost characters themselves. The production splendidly swoops us into another dimension. Costume designer Colleen Atwood never fails to create beautiful wardrobes befitting everyone's personality. Veteran Harry Potter production designer Stuart Craig creates wonderful to disturbing landscapes with the dark Barebone house to the opulent Magical Congress of the United States, and Tina and Queenie's homely apartment. While there might be a bit of CGI explosion to cover Scamander's creatures, every tiny production element lends a great deal to how this era of magic looks and feels.

Unfortunately, the gamble to make this movie a prequel and give Scamander is his own adventure doesn't come without a few problems. Some of it exists merely in our Muggle world such as controversies over white-washing, Rowling's distortion of Native American legends, and news of Johnny Depp's casting. For the movie itself, Rowling creates intriguing characters but she doesn't fully flesh out the story. The bulk of the plot even reminded me of the super-disorganizedSuicide Squad. 'A band of misfits tracks down unjustifiable threats in the city, only to be thwarted by an unstoppable superpower who is manipulated by an unsuspecting antagonist.' The plot between the two is inherently the same, just a bit more fantastical for the latter.

Fantastic Beasts welcomes us back to the wizarding world, but its intricate details often contradict each other. This mostly stems from Rowling toying with allegory and segregation, but not firmly establishing them - either as obstacles that should come into play against Scamander or for the xenophobia she touches upon. One-half of the story centers on her rules of both societies, and the other half is a pure delightful escape. They often give the impression of being different movies instead of complimenting each other.

Out of everything, David Yates might've delivered one of his better directorial work for the Potter series, even if it has pacing issues. There's nothing not to love about Rowling's new band of misfits and villains. The only issue is that the movie tries to do its own thing, but allow her to drop hints for the future. Which even being fully aware that more movies are on the way, it's a slight shame this doesn't feel complete. As much as I'll probably revisit this spectacular world again in the future - inevitably, it is still Harry Potter - this tale struggled to be the spellbinding cinematic return I anticipated.

Rating: ★1/2☆
Have you seen Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them? What did you think?