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

Comic Con trailers: Godzilla, Fantastic Beasts

Recently, I saw the trailers for the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Godzilla films, and thought I’d pen down some of my thoughts.

First, the Godzilla trailer. I thought the trailer poised the film really well as a giant monster flick; the one shot where Godzilla spews his atomic breath into the sky with the military ship before him as a size comparison is a glimpse of the breathtaking scale of the visuals that I’m hoping permeates throughout the film.

I think Millie Bobby Brown is an interesting casting choice (if someone typecast). Assuming the trailer is simply playing up her popularity and that she is indeed the main human protagonist of the film, I think some interesting dynamics can be explored by the filmmakers in terms of size and stature, both physical and metaphorical. Her character appears to be small in size even relative to the other humans in the film, but perhaps her bravery will render her larger-than-life, comparable to the literal titans in the film.

I think the trailer does leave things somewhat vague, which is good, though those knowledgeable in Godzilla lore may note the presence of certain familiar rivals to the king of monsters and infer how it would play out. I suppose if the filmmakers were to follow pre-existing lore meticulously, we’d probably see a battle between two camps of monsters. (Godzilla and Mothra against Ghidorah in a CGI-explosive Act 3, where the human characters play their own minor parts but are largely left on the sidelines)

Next, Fantastic Beasts.

I liked how the trailer still placed some emphasis on the various fantastic beasts of the wizarding world. We even see some new ones! I had feared that the film would sidelines the beasts to place emphasis on the Grindelwald/Dumbledore storyline and more or less transform it purely into a Harry Potter prequel. Thankfully, the trailer seems to show that the film will offer a lot more. The line where Zoe Kravitz’s character observes how there was no monster Newt couldn’t love was particularly interesting to me. I feel that she meant this not pertaining solely to his care for the various beasts seen in the film, but also to the sidelined people or perhaps those seen as ‘sub-human’ because of various peculiarities. I think it’ll be interesting if the filmmakers explored this human-beast dynamic and what made someone or something constitute a beast. For instance, in our world, we may treat a dog infinitely better than we do another human being. What would that say about the status dynamics between beasts and humans?

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5 Most Anticipated Movies of 2018

We’re more than a month into 2018 so this post finds itself slightly late, but nevertheless, here are the 5 films I am most anticipating for 2018!

5. Avengers: Infinity War

I’m not exactly a hardcore Marvel fan, which is probably why this is my 5th most anticipated film and not higher. Because it IS a landmark movie for sure in the already gargantuan Marvel universe – the trailer alone is testament to just how many paths in once distant are set to merge – the Guardians of the Galaxy team, Spiderman, Doctor Strange, The Avengers… the list goes on.

While franchise fatigue has definitely set in for me, I feel like this could be the movie to relight I felt when saw the first Avengers movie; a definite sense that I was watching the landmark blockbuster movie of the year, not just because of how fun it was, but because I felt that it paid fruition so well to the many build-up movies before.

4. Crazy Rich Asians

The Crazy Rich Asians book series is probably the most enjoyable series I’ve read in recent times, for its biting satire and over-the-top but downright laugh-out-loud humour. True, being Singaporean, where the movie is predominantly set, certainly lends this film some home field advantage, but that’s definitely only one of many pulling points of this movie.

First, the movie is being helming the movie is director Jon Chu, who is certainly reliable in the explosive fun category – just look at the recent Fast & Furious / Star Trek movies. Given the over-the-top nature of the sheer wealth of the ‘crazy rich’ characters and their indulgences, which are a major point of humour, I feel he could have been the perfect fit for such a movie.

The great cast, including Constance Wu as the main character Rachel, gives me hope that the movie would also be convincingly acted. Very, very excited for this!

3. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

I must admit, the first one disappointed me a little. Maybe it was the insane expectations I had – having grown up with Harry Potter, it’s pretty easy to see why I’d have expected sheer magic on screen.

I feel that having tempered expectations will probably be a good thing though, going into the second film of this series, which reportedly will have 5 films! The fact that it will mainly take place in the UK / Paris along with the inclusion of Dumbledore (played by Jude Law) makes me excited for this film, because somehow it makes me feel like it’d find the magic that made the original series so amazing. In a way, I feel like the first film was really for the series to find its footing, and I think it accomplished that at least, albeit shakily so IMO.

If this delivers, it could easily be my favourite film of the year, and that’s why it’s at Number 3 now. Waiting on the trailer with nervous anticipation!

 

2. The Nutcracker And the Four Realms

A choice that might raise a few eyebrows, but I don’t know why I just feel mad excitement for this film! I’m sure it’s just that I’ve fallen for the seemingly annual fairytale / mystic / eye-candy film that Disney churns out, and this one is no different. My first watch of the trailer gave me instant Narnia / Alice in Wonderland feels, which, while would be a turn off to some, hits right at the sweet spot for me.

The inclusion of actresses Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren only make me even more excited for this film, and I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy the score greatly – The Nutcracker was one of those tunes that I’d heard a lot in my childhood, so I feel like this could be a nostalgia-fest for me.

I really do hope the film doesn’t trap itself in too many Disney cliches though.

Nevertheless, super super excited!

1. The Incredibles 2

Honestly, this one doesn’t need much of an explanation. I’m a massive Pixar fan, and in 2017, Coco completely obliterated me. BEST film of 2017. Not to mention, Brad Bird returning to helm one of the landmark films of my childhood makes my expectations for this film basically skyrocket to interstellar levels of hype. The teaser: INSANELY cute. Ok I’m done here.