Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald Thoughts/Analysis/Review

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Going into the cinema, one of the biggest question marks for this film was definitely the plot. Seeing as Crimes of Grindelwald is based off an original screenplay by JK Rowling, who has been kind of going wild throwing twists and turns in her story world, I was expecting a film full of plot twists and references to the Harry Potter series.

The film started off well; I enjoyed the opening sequence where Grindelwald escapes while being transferred to another prison. I thought the act of him throwing the creature that had helped him subdue his captors out of the carriage to its death was an apt way of displaying how he’s completely contrary to Newt; he doesn’t care for the lives of beasts at all. Likewise, we also see how he’s contrary to Newt in terms of his ability to win people over with his ‘silver tongue’ (I’m honestly not sure if this was an actual magical thing or just a way to describe his persuasiveness); having won three guards at the prison to his side and as we see, has pulled Abernathy over, who was even willing to have his tongue cut off in Grindelwald’s place. Indeed, we see Grindelwald’s insidious pull throughout the film; bringing Auror’s to his side, and of course, Queenie.

After the nice opening sequence, we cut to three months later, where we see Newt in the UK Ministry of Magic. We are introduced to Leta Lestrange, played by Zoe Kravitz, who clearly has history with Newt. Perhaps the almost uncomfortable close-ups of their faces as they converse is a reflection of their former intimacy. We are also introduced to Newt’s brother, Theseus, who I suppose is meant to be something of a foil to Newt’s character, seeing how he’s an Auror, a vocation Newt clearly dislikes, and appears to be a socially superior version of Newt that could have been; seeing how he is held in high regard in the ministry and is wedded to Leta.

Here’s where the plot begins to get messy.

We’re thrust into a whirlwind of urgent exposition as Newt meets Dumbledore (played very well by Jude Law, by the way), we’re given some news on Tina, who is also in Paris looking for Credence, and of the new Nagini-Credence relationship. We’re also introduced to Yusuf Kama, who I honestly felt was a completely unnecessary character who only served to complicate the plot without adding any real substance to it. We also learn of the conflict within the Queenie-Jacob relationship, as wizards are barred from marrying muggles, giving reason for Queenie to turn to Grindelwald at this injustice. Oh, and Bunty. I thought she was a somewhat interesting if also unnecessary addition, who also only served to complicate things needlessly with her clear affection for Newt, leaving one to surmise that there’ll be an arc involving her unrequited love (which never surfaces in this movie; she doesn’t appear at all after the few minutes we see her, perhaps in the sequel?). There’s also the introduction of Nicholas Flamel, who always seems only to appear as a nod to fans of the original series, as he’s mentioned as Dumbledore’s friend in the first Harry Potter book. His role is, like Bunty, rather needless. He seems to serve only as a powerful wizard who shows up in the finale to aid in battle. I think it’s clear an issue arises very quickly in this film, which is that it’s simply way too crowded. The problem is not that there’s too big a supporting cast, it’s that J.K Rowling has set up multiple points of conflict and interest among them needlessly, resulting in an unfulfilling finale where we’re too tied up with all of the various complicated plot lines to really know what to feel about some of these characters.

I think we can tell that the story was meant to have everything lead to Grindelwald; in the finale, the various characters all physically present themselves to him.

I thought the film could have been so much more cohesive if they had removed the Yusuf plotline, and focused on the Newt-Leta story more. That would have made her declaration of love towards the end far more meaningful (I also liked how they made it ambiguous whether she said it to Newt or Theseus), as I thought the flashbacks to the Newt-Leta school days were definitely some of the nicer scenes. Letting the confusing revelation that coiled the Leta-Credence-Yusuf story together take centre stage seemed to suddenly make much of the main cast almost insignificant to the bigger plot, making for an underwhelming finale.

Of course, the main talking point coming out of the theatre was the deus ex machina J.K Rowling throws us at the very end, that Credence is a Dumbledore. Clearly, this is a cliffhanger move to set up the sequel, but I thought it only served to further throw the Leta-Credence-Yusuf story into irrelevance, which utterly confuses me because they had set that up as a climactic revelation and the driving point of the plot.

We are treated to some nice scenes, most of them involving various beasts. I thought the action sequences in the French Ministry of Magic was nice. I enjoyed the Tina-Newt reunion scene, which brought out the peculiarities of Newt’s character in a really charming way, props to Eddie Redmayne for fleshing out Newt’s character so well. As I stated early, I also really enjoyed the Newt-Leta story, especially the flashbacks. Perhaps a biased part of me enjoyed them because of the familiar Hogwarts setting, but I thought they provided a nice escape from the overcomplicated plot that was coiling itself into a mess. The final battle was nice but kind of came out of nowhere; what were those fiery beasts and why are we seeing them for the first time in the final battle?

Overall, it had it’s moments, but definitely very, very messy. This Harry Potter fan is definitely disappointed.

Rating: 5.5/10

Crazy Rich Asians thoughts (by a Singaporean)

This review comes extremely late, as CRA is weeks into its historic box office run in the US, but I thought I’d just share some thoughts on it anyway.

loved the movie. The fact that it’s plot was striking of a run-of-the-mill rom com didn’t deter my enjoyment of the movie; it may even have enhanced it. Because this is the first time I saw a truly mainstream Hollywood with a full-fledged Asian (and not to mention highly Singaporean) cast.

Many western reviews have noted how it’s a fine portrait of Asian culture and society. Mostly, they seem to implicitly refer to Chinese American culture (making dumplings etc), however, I thought it did a fine job of displaying Singaporean values and culture as well, which was such an added bonus for me. Peik Lin’s family was not just comic relief, it was a nice quip at Singaporean’s obsession with things new and shiny, and the antics of the burgeoning nouveau riche. The snarky aunts that flank Eleanor in almost every scene are also a nice reflection of competitive family dynamics in a typical Singaporean household, where a spirit of one-upmanship and incessant gossiping is a mainstay. Of course, these may seem like generic tropes, but I thought they were imbued with a nice, authentic Singaporean touch and were tropes commonly seen in Singaporean films, giving it that added local flavour.

My favourite scene was definitely the Mahjong scene. The usage of such a popular game in Singapore in such a pivotal scene was nice, and I liked how it tied in with the very first scene we see with Constance Wu, where she wins a game of Poker because her opponent was playing to not lose, and not to win. Bringing this concept full circle at the end of the film, (with a change in the game from Poker to Mahjong being a nice nod to Singaporean/Asian culture), she talks about how Eleanor had made it such that any side winning had become impossible. She utilises the game to express this sentiment amazingly; Eleanor technically wins, at first, but then Rachel reveals her hand, showing how she’d given the game to Eleanor, rendering Eleanor’s win unauthentic. Here, we see how she’d played not to win, not to ‘not lose’, but to lose, and in the process had felt for the first time that she was ‘enough’. I thought this had a nice message of how assessing different permutations towards success wasn’t necessarily always the optimal way to grow as a person, rather, considering the value of failure or loss may prove more valuable.

Overall, just loved this film, and watched it three times because I had to. As for it’s Oscar chances, I think it should show up in some minor categories just as a nod to it’s significance as one for the history books, though a nod for Michelle Yeoh may well be possible if the stars align.

9/10

Why Avengers: Infinity War ultimately disappoints

I liked Avengers: Infinity War. One of the factors I’d been most wary about; the balancing of so many different characters and their individual stories, turned out to be a success, as I thought the various plot lines weaves together really nicely, concurrently displaying how far-reaching Thanos’s impact was, with our heroes playing their parts in different parts of the galaxy at the same time.

I thought the focus on Thanos as the main character was well done too; it definitely gave him a proper introduction that previous Marvel villains lacked.

Ultimately, I was disappointed by Avengers: Infinity War because of the widely talked-about ending. 

Since it’s been awhile since it’s release, I think it’s safe to reveal that basically half the characters die as Thanos has collected all the Infinity stones.

When I saw Black Panther, Spider-Man and the bulk of the GOTG cast disappear though, instead of shock I felt somewhat cheated – because we know they’re coming back based on Marvel upcoming announced releases. 

Effectively, the sense of finality and characters being gone for good just wasn’t there. 

I guess I’d expected this to have a defined ending on its own, but it’s instead become a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 or Mockingjay Part 1; it’s only half of a complete story; and surely the less important half.

Overall rating: 6.7/10

Broadly speaking a real accomplishment of a film, if brought down only by a disappointing ending 

A Quiet Place Quick Thoughts

A Quiet Place is an amazing movie. Much in the vein of last year’s Get Out, it is an exciting and unique offering to the horror genre, with subtle social commentary at play as well.

Director and star John Krasinski has mentioned that the film is meant to explore the family unit. Upon reviewing the film by memory, I find that the use of sound as the key element to the story certainly gels with his goal.

In any family unit, noise can be destructive, both literally and metaphorically. Arguments can tear families apart, noise from people external to the family can very quickly cause disharmony among the family. The toxicity of all this unwanted noise is manifested as a killer alien in AQP, and we see that the family sticks to the solution of not making any sound.

We see that this too, is sub-optimal; in blocking out the negative elements of all this sound, they also remove the positive; a lack of communication means issues cannot be solved as one does not understand the other; the young girl believes her father doesn’t love her.

It is interesting how the alien is killed, which is through sound, more specifically a frequency that the father had utilized in his attempt to help his daughter hear. I suppose this could be analogous to how in order to truly be in tune with each other, a family must find a common ground, a common frequency which they can all subscribe to in order to understand and appreciate one another. A more far-fetched idea I got was in relation to how it’s the feedback from the hearing aid that causes the creature to experience immense pain – which could translate to how feedback is required from all members of the household in order to foster understanding, even if it may cause pain along the way (as shown by the pain experienced by the girl from the feedback).

Overall, a very very thoughtful and well thought out movie that is engaging throughout with it’s incredibly scary and tense scenes that definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. I thought the cast’s performances were amazing, especially Emily Blunt’s; without sound, they manage to reveal so much about themselves solely through their actions and facial expressions; the bathtub scene was so gripping. Another highlight scene for me was of course when the Dad sacrifices himself for his children through a burst of sound that can be described as raw and primal; speaking to parent’s primal instinct of putting their children first.

Rating: 9/10