Culture Crash 18-49: The disappointing Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture–what’s new and old in entertainment.

Last month, JK Rowling’s Wizarding World saw its latest installment, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald be met with a low score on Rotten Tomatoes and countless disappointed Harry Potter fans across the globe.

Count me among them. Not since 2009’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince film totally bungled its source material has a Wizarding World installment felt so misguided. Crimes of Grindelwald isn’t quite as bad as Half-Blood Prince, but it is poorly paced and difficult to follow, even for those who have spent their entire childhoods learning the universe forward and backward.

Again, the keys to the kingdom were handed over to director David Yates, who has now made six installments of the Wizarding World’s film series. And again, Yates proved he isn’t really up to the task. Fantastic Beasts 2 is divided in too many directions, it introduces characters and then forgets them, fails to flesh out the details of the prison break scene, which is the film’s only great set piece, and lingers for too long on characters we struggle to understand fully acting in ways we can’t make sense of in scenes that are poorly staged. Yates seems uninterested in doing anything but filming the script, adding none of the flair or subtleties that Alfonso Cuaron brought to the Prisoner of Azkaban adaptation. In all, Crimes of Grindelwald manages to make a story about magic pretty boring. And that’s before I even get to the final twist in Crimes of Grindelwald, which I won’t spoil, but is either an outright lie, which would be a poor way to end a film, or a new detail that not only fails to pass a logic test, but retroactively diminishes the ending of the Harry Potter saga.

I get no joy out of disliking this movie. I went to the theater expecting to leave exhilarated and excited for more. After all, for over 11 years now, we fans have been clamoring for more of the Potter universe. I still dream of a new novel that covers the story of the original Order of the Phoenix. But we only want more because we expect stories of a similar high quality to the original series. Stories much, much better than the one we got in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Three more Fantastic Beasts movies are on their way, and us lifelong fans will surely be seeing them, despite our new hesitations. Hopefully, the filmmakers find a way to conjure up some new magic, and fast.

I’m Evan Rook. 

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Culture Crash 18-39: 2018 Fall Films

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

Now that summer is behind us, it’s time for fall movies to take over.

Of course, there are some big ones coming, most notably Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Gindewald, the next installment in JK Rowling’s wizarding world. But there is a lot of excitement for some non-franchise films as well.

Typically, the day Oscar nominations are announced is a day when the majority of the public shrugs their shoulders and says ‘I’ve never heard of these movies.’ But each year presents a new opportunity to get out ahead of those confused hours, and if you want to have a good sense of the awards season to come, these are the titles to keep your eyes peeled for.

This week will see the release of the eagerly anticipated Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga remake of A Star Is Born. The movie has been earning rave reviews from film festivals and its release is coupled with a steady Oscar buzz.

A movie I’m particularly excited for is Widows, a thriller directed by Steve McQueen, co-written with Gone Girl and Sharp Objects author Gillian Flynn. The movie has one of the most exciting casts in years, headed by Viola Davis. Widows tells the story of an armed robbery gone bad–one where all four robbers are killed in the attempt… and their widows attempts to finish the job in their stead.

Other movies set to dominate conversation over the next few months include If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins’s next film, an adaptation of the James Baldwin novel; First Man, Damien Chazelle’s retelling of Neil Armstrong’s mission to the moon; Can You Ever Forgive Me? Marielle Heller’s biographical film about Lee Israel, a writer who resorted to forgery, starring Melissa McCarthy, and Roma, Alfonso Cuaron’s passion project set in 1970s Mexico City.

This is the time of year cinephiles look forward to: the time when big swings come from exciting directors and we get to bask in all of its glory.

I’m Evan Rook.