The Crimes of Grindelwald is a Crime

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NO SPOILERS! I PROMISE. NO SPOILERS


Thursday night Mrs. Greenbean and I watched the new Wizarding World flick–Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. I was looking forward to it because I love backstory, and these tales seem to me basically back story. Also, Jude Law is an amazing actor and I looked forward to him as a young Albus. Here is my review, in my usual format: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

The Good

I liked three things about this movie. First, I liked some of the acting. Jude Law, as I said, was great. Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston were also enjoyable but they take a back seat to Zoe Kravitz, who really does a fantastic job as Leta Lestrange. I also liked the effects.  The first scene is clumsy, but after that the imagery gets much sharper and more spectacular. The “final battle” was very well done. Third, I think they did a great job with the setting in Paris.

The Bad

There  was a lot of bad. There is “continuity” bad, which has been talked about in many other places, but there is also “story” bad. The plot is confusing and the character’s actions and reactions are hard to reconcile with the way people would actually react. In fact, almost no one in this movie at any time behaves in a way that is believable. There is a particular scene and a choice at the end of the film that I liked as an idea, but the character’s journey to that choice is baffling.

Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Grindelwald is, to put it bluntly, boring. It’s just not very exciting at all. I don’t know if that is Depp or the director, but I’m sure some middle school theater student could have given more life to Grindelwald than did Depp.

There is plenty of other bad, but these are the main offenses.

The Ugly

In an ocean of bad, one ugly rises above the surf. That is the issue of focus. This movie doesn’t know what it is. They seem to have thrown a pot of spaghetti against the wall to see what will stick–and none of it really does. Because of this lack of focus, when credits are rolling, I’m thinking I don’t care about the fate of any of them because I’ve been given no compelling reason to care. It is difficult to characterize this without spoilers, but when you watch it I think you’ll understand. It’s not one story, or even three woven stories. It is more like seven different stories with five different themes and three different genres none of which are intrinsically connected while the whole thing is spiraling out of control in vastly different directions. More time should have been spent tightening up this narrative arc.

Summary

As I have written on this blog before, the Harry Potter films never match the brilliance of their literary light, and this film, which has no literary underpinning, falls even further into the realm of the mundane. This movie might be redeemed if the next one connects some dots, but as it stands now, The Crimes of Grindelwald is the Star Trek III: The Search for Spock of the Harry Potter Universe. It provides interesting filler–no one will ever really care about it–and it is only important because of the film before it and after it.

INTO THE WOODS–A MOVIE REVIEW (NO SPOILERS)

Our family divided our movie time up yesterday.  The youngest sprout went with some friends to see the newest retelling of Exodus.  She hated it, and I’ve never been more proud.  She pointed out to me, blow by blow, of all the places where the film was absurd and inaccurate.  Bravo little Greenbean, bravo!

Meryl Streep Into The WoodsAt the same time she watched that Mrs. Greenbean and I watched “Into the Woods” with the oldest sprout.

What I Liked

The acting was great.  I was very relieved, however, that Johnny Depp‘s presence on screen was short lived.  Meryl Streep came very close to over-acting, but, she’s Meryl Streep so she can get away with it.  Emily Blunt, James Corden, and Anna Kendrick were all solid and the children, Daniel Huttlestone as Jack and Lilla Crawford as Little Red Ridding Hood were more than up to the challenge.  Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen nearly steal the show with their “Who is in the greatest agony sing-off” at the waterfall.  Captain Kirk (Pine) really hammed it up, which kept it from being ridiculous, like that time James Bond sang in “Mamma Mia!” or when The Gladiator sang in “Les Miserables.”  Remember those?  How can we ever forget.

Thankfully, this isn't Mama Mia! or Les Mis.
Thankfully, this isn’t Mamma Mia! or Les Mis.

The humor in the movie was good too, which was a credit to the writing and probably goes back to the Broadway show.  The movie has dark overtones throughout, but the flippant and almost throwaway laugh lines keep it from becoming a complete downer.

Along those lines, the best line in the film goes to Pine.  “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.”  Awesome.

What I Didn’t Like

I DIDN’T KNOW THIS WAS A MUSICAL!  I WAS TRICKED!  Apparently my wife knew.  I complained about this on Facebook and a friend asked me, “What did you expect from Stephen Sondheim?”  My only answer was that I didn’t check the credits that closely.  I had no idea.

I also didn’t like the staging, technical effects, and look of the film.  Seriously, at times it looked like Willow.  The scenes with the giant woman were blurry and obscure and I think the whole thing was filmed on the backlot.  How cheap was the set design?  The Prince’s palace is relegated to the stairs.  The village looks like it was borrowed from the television show “Once Upon A Time.”  Speaking of which . . .

Another thing I didn’t like is that it felt like “Once Upon A Time.”  In case you haven’t seen that show, it is a mash-up of every fairytale character you can think of, all living in one universe.  That’s pretty much what “Into the Woods” is.  I know that “Into the Woods” came first as a book and musical back in the 80s, but it is all beginning to feel a bit recycled.

Guess what?  Guess what?  One of the previews informed me that they are making another . . . wait for it . . .  wait for it . . . Cinderella.  Just what we needed.  The world is being overtaken by superheroes and fairy tales.

What I Really Really Didn’t Like

Not much here–and notice I didn’t say hate, because, even though it was a musical (and for the record, I don’t hate musicals, I just have to be in the right mindset for them, okay) there was nothing I really hated.  But I didn’t like the sexual innuendo found between The Witch and the Baker’s Father or between The Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood.  I understand that it is pitching to adult audiences, but I just didn’t like it.

I also didn’t like the sudden and capricious way in which characters died in the movie.  No spoilers, just that when it comes, it comes with little exposition or explanation, and little emotional reflection by the survivors.

There is one more thing I didn’t like.  I didn’t like the way in which the movie changed about two-thirds through.  I felt like I was a horse being ridden in one direction, watching one kind of movie, and then Ouch! the riders tugged the reigns hard in a different direction and forced me to watch a totally different kind of film.  It really is a movie with a split personality.  It starts one way, and then changes abruptly.  I didn’t like that.

Overall

My overall grade is C+.  If you really like musicals, then you might rate it higher.  Both Mrs. Greenbean and the oldest sprout loved the music and I perceive an iTunes download of the soundtrack will be coming forthwith.

images from imbd.com and tumblr.com