Movies

Movie review: “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”

J.K. Rowling’s wizarding spinoff lacks the magic of Harry Potter origins

By Rick Romancito
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 11/16/18

Filled with an excruciating amount of detail, and a plot so cryptically complex that it rivals a Paul Greengrass political thriller, the latest film adaptation of a J.K. Rowling novel, "Fantastic …

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Movies

Movie review: “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”

J.K. Rowling’s wizarding spinoff lacks the magic of Harry Potter origins

Posted

Filled with an excruciating amount of detail and a plot so cryptically complex that it rivals a Paul Greengrass political thriller, the latest film adaptation of a J.K. Rowling novel, "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald," will probably induce squeals of delight from deeply immersed fans. But, for those Muggles not blood-born to the who’s who in the wizarding world going all the way back to Harry Potter’s first diaper change, the reaction might be more a yawn or at least a big "huh"?

The film, set in the pre-Potter universe of a late 1920s America, moves like it has a big important story to tell. But, after about halfway through, audiences may wish they'd read the book before plunking down their admission fee — or, maybe wish they’d brought along a book to read anyhow.

The rule of thumb for any book-to-film translation is not to be entirely faithful. That's because a film can never exactly mirror prose, no matter how well done.

It’s why plots are smoothed, characters are combined, and a little thing called editing was invented. They don’t call it an “adaptation” for nothing.

In this case, Rowling adapted her own novel into the screenplay for this movie, the second in a likely unstoppable juggernaut of a proposed six-film series.

It is a 20-pounds-stuffed-into-a-two-pound-bag kind of movie, designed one would suppose to be re-watched for years to glean Easter eggs missed upon a first viewing and therefore reaping even more profits to the Rowling fortune. It opens with the violent escape of the titular bad guy, a dark and very powerful wizard named Gellert Gindelwald (Johnny Depp).

Three months later, we reconnect with the hero in our tale, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who we last saw in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016). Newt is a quiet, odd little fellow who gains friends and followers because of his focus of study as a British  Ministry of Magic employee in the Beasts Division of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, as well as a self-proclaimed magizoologist.

He is appealing to restore his rights to travel after losing them in the last movie. They can be restored after agreeing to act as an “auror,” a specialist tasked with upholding the law and protecting magical communities, alongside his brother Theseus (Callum Turner).

But, he refuses, and then he is asked by the ministry to locate Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), who was thought to have been killed but has resurfaced. The reason for this will not become apparent until near the film’s end.

Meanwhile, Gindelwald has a grand plan in mind, and as soon as he gets loose, he sets about putting it into motion. He quickly rises to power on the belief that he and his followers — pure blood wizards — should proclaim dominion over all the world. He even reveals a premonition of what may come to pass within the next few years.

Characters familiar and some new are enlisted to find out what Gindelwald has in mind and how it is connected to Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), Hogwarts and a plethora of sinister intrigues illustrated with a lot of sometimes intrusive computer-generated imagery.

Maybe this film series will improve over time, but only if Rowling exercises a little restraint in keeping her audience entertained instead of confused.

Tempo grade: C+

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is rated PG-13 for some sequences of fantasy action

It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Also showing in Taos

Instant Family

MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual material, language, and some drug references

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres

When Pete and Ellie (Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne) decide to start a family, they stumble into the world of foster care adoption. They hope to take in one small child, but when they meet three siblings, including a rebellious 15-year-old girl (isabela Moner), they find themselves speeding from zero to three kids overnight. Now, Pete and Ellie must try to learn the ropes of instant parenthood in the hope of becoming a family.

Directed by Sean Anders, this film co-stars Gustavo Quiroz, Julianna Gamiz, Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro, Julie Hagerty, and Joan Cusack.

It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

The Old Man and The Gun

MPAA rating: PG-13 for brief strong language

Taos Community Auditorium

One might suppose that a character-driven drama with comic overtones like "The Old Man and the Gun" released on Halloween week might seem the antithesis of the usual frightmare fare. But, when you think about it, the movie's premise -- that of an elderly man still pursuing his avocation as an armed bank robber -- targets one of the greatest fears of our time: Namely, growing old.

Robert Redford, 82, plays the geezer with the charm and wit we've come to expect. It is a role he has vowed will be his last, opting to retire from acting before the glint in his eye that stole the hearts of audiences for decades isn't permanently stolen by the years.

Redford plays Forrest Tucker, a real life career criminal who died in prison in 2014. Tucker's life was as colorful as any depicted on the silver screen, having knocked over banks and various businesses, amassing millions, but losing it all by getting caught numerous times. But, his most notorious reputation was earned as an escape artist. His exploits, particularly his self-release from San Quentin at age 70, earned him the respect of criminals, law enforcement officers, and journalists — such as David Grann upon whose New Yorker article this screenplay is based.

But, as a title card cheekily reminds us, this is a mostly true story because writer-director David Lowery has two missions here. One, it's to wind a comic tale of a rascally old man who keeps the lilt in his step by committing audacious crimes, a lovable old coot who can still flatter a pretty elder horse ranch owner played by Sissy Spacek. The other is to give Redford his swan song.

About the latter, Lowery has the star's 50-year career upon which to draw for images showing the lead character as a handsome young man. It is both practical from a filmmaking viewpoint, but also a cheat because the audience for the movie has likely seen "Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid," "Barefoot in the Park," "The Horse Whisperer," and "Jeremiah Johnson," so they know all too well the evolution of his looks. And, they also are familiar with his legendary vitality, which sadly in this movie has dramatically diminished.

In the movie, the long arm of the law is represented by a slightly long-haired, side-burned cop (the movie is generally set in the early 1980s) played by Casey Affleck who is married to an African American woman with whom they have two kids. This cop, John Hunt, begins investigating one of Forrest's robberies and gradually becomes obsessed with catching him after researching his storied career.

Actually, Forrest doesn't work alone. He has a couple of old buddies, Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits), who help him scope out potential targets. As their string of robberies becomes well known, they are saddled with the lame moniker, "The Over-the-Hill Gang," after a popular movie of the time.

The movie is entertaining for all of the stated reasons, but also a tad disappointing for the same. We obviously can't roll back the clock, but at least for aging movie stars there are marvelous clips.

When we reviewed this film Oct. 26, Tempo gave it a B+.

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (Nov. 18) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (Nov. 19-21). Additional screenings are planned Nov. 23 at 7 p.m., and Nov. 24 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

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