ezra miller

The Potterverse Continues with FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD by Ryan Hill

 
beastslogo.jpg

In 2016, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was released. While not as good as most of the eight Harry Potter films, the prequel scratched an itch for more of author J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. Audiences may be getting more than they bargained for with four planned sequels, the first of which is The Crimes of Grindelwald.

Revealed to be a pale Johnny Depp with weird eyes and bleached hair, Gellert Grindelwald was Voldemort before, well, Voldemort. Grindelwald was mentioned in the Potter books, but very little of him was seen. Crimes puts the villain front and center as he tries to convert wizards and witches to his cause of ruling the non-magical world.

fantastic-beasts-2-images-6.jpg

Once again, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is recruited into action by Albus Dumbledore (or Dumbledamn, as some have termed the character since Jude Law plays him) to find Credence (Ezra Miller), the Obscurial thought to have died at the end of Fantastic Beasts. Once again, Newt needs to find Credence before Grindelwald. There’s so much more story going on including Newt’s brother, his childhood sweetheart, his current sweetheart, her sister, and lots of other characters old and new, but it’d take the entire review listing everything out.

Take a look at all the characters in this banner. All of them have their own backstories, motivations, etc. It’s a lot to take in.

beastsbanner.jpg

Suffice to say, while Rowling (who wrote the screenplays for Fantastic Beasts and Grindelwald) introduces oodles of plot threads, none of them are tied up or pay off. They’re all merely introduced, waiting to be concluded in a future entry. Grindelwald would’ve been a much stronger film if it focused on telling its own story first and the bigger picture second, but that seems like something Rowling might’ve forgotten with the Fantastic Beasts series.

One of the things that made the Potter films so good was that each entry told a story that could stand on its own. It helped to know what came before, but it wasn’t a pre-requisite. Sure, each book/movie built up the bigger story piece by piece, but it wasn’t the main goal. Except for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. That one is basically nothing but set-up for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. An outsider to the Potter-verse could watch Goblet of Fire or Chamber of Secrets without having seen anything else and be fine. The Fantastic Beasts series, to date, hasn’t been so lucky. Especially Grindelwald. The film really is the Half-Blood Prince to the upcoming Beasts films, in that all it does is set up future entries. Viewed outside of the series, a person would go wonky trying to figure out what was going on plot-wise. Instead of a standalone film, Grindelwald feels like the second chapter in a five-chapter story. Without seeing the big picture, it just doesn’t totally work.

rev-1-FBCOG-CCTRLR-001_High_Res_JPEG.jpeg

Despite the controversy over his casting, Depp makes for a fine Grindelwald, who’s seductive words are nicely juxtaposed against his intimidating appearance. Despite the wizard’s pale skin and strange eyes – one of which is menacing to the point of distracting – Rowling has written the villain in such a way that it’s easy to see how someone who looks so much like a villain can in people over to his cause. There Voldemort used force and intimidation to build his army, Grindelwald may be even more dangerous. He can talk someone into choosing to join him, a much scarier proposition.

Oscar winner Redmayne is always charming as Newt, who sadly gets pushed to the background so new characters can have the spotlight. Newt and his kind demeanor carried Fantastic Beasts, and its sorely missed among all the plot threads in Grindelwald.

fantastic-beasts-2-images-4.jpg

The Crimes of Grindelwald isn’t vintage Harry Potter. It has some great visuals and good action, but the film is tasked with carrying the load of three upcoming sequels, and the weight is too much for one film, especially one that isn’t three hours long. Grindelwald is fine for what it is and will probably age well as the other Fantastic Beasts films are released, but with nothing else to go on, it’s an enjoyable enough film for Potter fans, but everyone else will probably be bored.

Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman... Everyone is Wasted in Justice League by Ryan Hill

 
jlbanner.jpg

When director George Miller, he of the Mad Max films, was gearing up to make a Justice League Mortal film years ago featuring a younger cast (including Armie Hammer as Bruce Wayne/Batman) there was outcry among the fan community. It was developed during the height of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, and that plus aging down the DC Comics characters to their early twenties made the movie a bad idea from the beginning.

giphy (33).gif

Ten years later, the Justice League has finally made their way to theaters, courtesy of the minds behind Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Honestly? I wish the studio had moved ahead with Justice League Mortal.

The “plot,” as it is, centers around the big bad Steppenwolf, trying to get a hold of these three mother boxes – or whatever they’re called; it doesn’t matter – so he can remake Earth in his Hellish image. It should also be noted that Steppenwolf, voiced by Ciaran Hinds, is made up of the finest computer graphics that 1997 has to offer. Standing in his way are the Justice League: Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Superman (Henry Cavill), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher). After the league spends the first hour trying to figure out if they want to team up, they decide to stop Steppenwolf.

giphy (35).gif

Where to begin with Justice League and its buffet of issues. Zack Snyder’s direction? His muted, bland color scheme? The unnecessary slow-motion, which even features a crate of fruit flying? The special effects, which look worse than they did in the trailers? The fact that its painfully obvious which parts Joss Whedon reshot, especially the scenes where the filmmakers used CGI to get rid of Henry Cavill's mustache? The obnoxious use of green screen thrown into bits of every scene, including an exterior corn field conversation between Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent/Superman and Amy Adams’ Lois Lane? Giving well-known characters like Commissioner Gordon nothing to do except show up on screen? Ben Affleck’s paunch? His obvious boredom? The film’s three beginnings, none of which connect to the other? The plot, which doesn’t even kick in until halfway through the film? The overreaction – again – to BvS’s criticism that it unnecessarily killed thousands of people by having some random family get caught in the crossfire between the heroes and the villain?

source (1).gif

My mother always said if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all, so here’s the nice things about Justice League. Composter Danny Elfman resurrects his old Batman theme from 1989, and even John Williams’ original Superman theme for the score. Aquaman has a couple of cool scenes, mostly because Momoa himself is cool and will always be cool, because he’s Khal Drogo and that’s just the way the world works sometimes. Ezra Miller’s Flash has a moment or two, but all the speed scenes are wasted. Quicksilver, the Marvel universe’s resident speedster, was utilized so much better in two X-Men films and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. In response, Justice League offers up Miller obviously running on a treadmill as CGI lightning bolts fly around him.

Oh. Wait. I got back into saying not nice things. Sorry Mom!

giphy (34).gif

Justice League s garbage. In their rush to replicate Marvel’s success, Warner Bros. and DC have skipped the years of legwork their adversary put in to get to The Avengers, which works so well because most of the characters were established in standalone films. On the other end of the spectrum, Justice League is overburdened with the task of establishing so many characters, spending the first hour going in six or seven directions trying to let the audience get to know everyone, including newcomers Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg. At 119 minutes, Justice League was edited down to the bone, leaving more breathing room in outer space than the film. There isn’t close to enough time to do anyone justice – GET IT??? – leaving everyone with maybe one okay scene to strut their stuff.

Considering the $300 million budget, Justice League shouldn’t feel like a workprint that still needs effects work and editing.

Audiences deserve better.

The DC films deserve better.

The world deserves better.