Two years passed after the project launch and here “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is on the screens. This is the tenth picture in the magic universe by Joan Rowling’s books and the second instalment in the Fantastic Beasts series.
The director of the film is David Yates – director of the last 4 films of Harry Potter saga and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016).
The plot of the “Crimes” is the sequel of Newt Scamander’s adventures, magizoologist (Eddie Redmayne). In the previous part, I’ll remind you, he together with MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America) captured a powerful dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp).
According to shiny polished Hollywood standard, whilst the protagonist is useful in the plot development, so the scriptwriters play with it. So, in the very first minutes, evil Grindelwald escapes while being transported from a New York prison to a court. In freedom, he sets an ominous plan to gather all wizards around him, to vanish the humanity and these No-Majes (or muggles) who will remain alive, turn to slaves. The situation is complicating by the fact that the only equal to Grindelwald by power is Albus Dumbledore (he, much younger and almost without a beard, is performed by Jude Law) refuses to fight with Depp’s character because he’s bound by the unbreakable word not to do it.
Several parallel lines are unfolding – between Newt and his brother Theseus, Newt and the wizard Tina (Katherine Waterston), chunky baker Jacob (Dan Fogler) and Tina’s sister beauty-telepath, Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) and finally between the carrier of the terrible dark force Obscurus and young Credence (Ezra Miller) – and the rest of the world.
Of course, these films are made to entertain. But there’re different ways to entertain. Needless to say that the special effects are perfect here, the corresponding department had worked hard. A wide variety of creatures mess around for fun on camera; coloured cataclysms shake the frame regularly – what only the blue fire monsters worth released by Grindelwald on the famous Parisian cemetery Per-Lachez or the Chinese dragon on which Newt rides. But the film cannot consist of the tricks only. The story told in the film is also important. And here, Yates has some problems.
First, the film is overburden with actors. The story is filled with the dozen equally important characters with their problems plus the fantastic beasts, relationship with which began to resemble enthusiastic fuss. Second, the dramaturgy. There’re signs of good drama in exposition which could touch the audience’s soul since Grindelwald manages to make a split in the magic world and the Ministry of Magic, which hunts the villain, doesn’t care about the means, and Depp’s character is followed by the part of positive characters. There’s the motive of intolerance to otherness: wizards and witches, despite all their abilities, have to live hiding and woe to them, who fall in love with an ordinary mortal – such alliances are strictly forbidden. And again, a separate tension between Grindelwald and Dumbledore: as a youth, they were close friend, and Rowling even made assumptions about the homosexuality of the future head of Hogwarts; anyway, now they’re enemies – it’s also worth discussing.
But Yates simply failed to keep control over the bulky storyline. Among the actors only Low and Katherine Waterston realize that they play. The rest, including Depp, pull out their roles on the handmade stamps and as a result perform functions of so-called mobile applications to the thunderous invasion of special effects. Basically, all but the evolution of these characters released on the screens in 2017 is seen.
But it doesn’t work, not as in Harry Potter series. Because there, we watch the maturing of Harry Potter and his friends and this stretched in time Bildungsroman was really exciting – now this dynamics of the age transition is lost, everyone is adult and predictable and the tricks with which these adult try to entertain the audience aren’t enough.
So, if not eliminate this dramatic-psychological pattern, then the whole franchise will be threatened by artistic degradation. And it’s a pity because the millions of Rowling’s fantasies admirers, among whom there’re enough cinema critics, deserve better.
Dmytro Desyateryk, The Day – specially for opinionua.com