“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” opens a bleak Wizarding World

Updated: Mar 23, 2019


4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS

Johnny Depp's Gellert Grindelwald is a true villain. He promises a world where Pure-Blood rule over all. (4K frame shots courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) returns with his Bowtruckle friend, Pickett; Jude Law plays the young Albus Dumbledore; Queenie Goldstein  (Alison Sudol)  and her No-Maj sweetheart Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) pop in to visit Newt in London; Newt's Niffler returns, still fascinated by sparkly things.





“FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD”


4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy (extended cut); 2018; PG-13 for sequences of fantasy action; streaming via Amazon Prime (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube


Best extra: “Unlocking Scene Secrets,” a six-part mini making-of








ONE THING’S for sure; Johnny Depp can play a villain.


After years of watching him as awkward, eccentric but, in many ways, sympathetic characters, he goes all out evil as Grindelwald, the magical would-be tyrant in J.K. Rowling’s world of Harry Potter.


We get the vibe in the opening scenes even as he’s locked in a cell waiting transport back to England for his crimes there. He hopes to create a world where the magic-born rules over everyone just like Voldemort. He escapes in a wild CGI coach ride over the ocean. At first it seems he kills his guards, but look closely parents. Most manage to save themselves keeping that PG-13 rating in place. But when he throws a loving pet out the coach window for being “too needy,” everyone knows this guy is an arch fiend. He’s the anti-Newt Scamander, hero of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the “magizoologist” and author whose mission is to locate and save enchanted and enchanting creatures.


If the story seems formulaic, it is. A similar story unfolded in the seven Harry Potter books and their eight movie adaptations. Magical heroes vs. bad magical megalomaniac, yes? Lots of fantastic CGI sets, action and critters, right? As technology develops, so do the effects. A making-of sequence among the extras shows how Hogwarts was rebuilt after its destruction in Harry’s epic. The sets at the Wizarding World’s theme park were shot when closed at night, creating a footprint for CG recreation.



Grindelwald and his lieutenants, Vinda Rosier (Poppy Corby-Tuech) and Abernathy (Kevin Guthrie).

Jacob is released from an enchantment.

Rosier finds an overwhelmed Queenie on the streets of Paris.

Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) searches for his family origins with Nagini (Claudia Kim).

Newt and Jacob meet French wizard Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam).


Newt’s little green Bowtruckle and furry blue Niffler return along with a passel of babies. Grindelwald’s coach is carried by winged, skeletal Thestrals. A playful Chinese Zouwu and gorgeous underwater Kelpie make their debut. We learn the tragic origin of Nagini, Voldemort’s attack snake.


They’re the best thing about “Fantastic Beasts 2,” so be sure to check them out. As before, it’s easy to like Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander and his friends, No-Maj baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), the gifted Goldstein sisters Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Queenie (Alison Sudol). Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) returns along with new cast mates Zoë Kravitz, Claudia Kim, Callum Turner, and Jude Law as a perfect younger version of Albus Dumbledore. Everyone gives an excellent performance.


Still, even Law’s Dumbledore can’t provide enough charm to warm this cold tale. Light moments are few, and it’s tough going for those who stick it out to the end. Thank goodness we have those fantastic beasts to help us along.


VIDEO

Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts director David Yates returns with cinematographer Philippe Rousselot (Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes” films, “A River Runs Through It”) and a big Arri Alexa 65 camera with Hasselblad Prime 65-S and Leica Thalia lenses to capture Rowling’s story. The results were mastered to a 4K intermediate (2.40:1 aspect ratio) bringing super-sharp clarity and definition throughout. Colors are well saturated, but the dark, cold palette, keeps the mood down. Even day-exteriors are moody, although there’s a warm glow in Newt’s room and his enchanted basement.


Skin tones look natural although washed out by the dark atmosphere, which is perfect for high-contrast effects. There’s a lot of bright white sparkle against true-black backgrounds. In this case Blu-ray visuals compare very well.




Newt meets a fearsome Chinese Zouwu, an elephant-sized cat creature.

Newt knows how to capture the Zouwu's heart and gives it a home in his magical bag.

Dumbledore is the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts.

Torquil Travers (Derek Riddell), British wizard and head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for the British Ministry of Magic, interrogate Dumbledore while Aurors Tina and Newt's brother Theseus (Callum Turner) look on.

Tina and Newt help wizard Yusuf Kama.


AUDIO

Warner Brothers pulled out all the stops on its audio, too, with 7.1 channel Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 default soundtracks. Ambient sound is delivered throughout the room in both crowd and action scenes. During escapades with the Thestrals and Zouwu, movement gallops from ceiling to floor. A finale with a roaring dragon set to destroy Paris soars. Meanwhile, dialogue is always delivered clearly. James Newton Howard wrote the score, another winner in the sound department.


EXTRAS

There are five including the six-part “Unlocking Scene Secrets” highlighting key moments with interviews from the filmmakers, cast and VFX supervisors. They include “The Return to Hogwarts,” “Newt’s Menagerie,” “Credence, Nagini and the Circus Arcanus,” “Paris and Place Cachée,” “Ministere des Affaires Magiques,” and “Grindelwald’s Escape and the Ring of Fire.”


An extended version of the film is available through the digital code included with purchase. It adds approximately eight minutes and most likely includes some of the 10 deleted scenes available on the Blu-ray disc.

“J.K. Rowling: A World Revealed” talks about expanding the world of Harry Potter, and the challenges of writing and editing her story for the screen. She compares the differences of writing a novel on her own, and writing a script which includes input from a variety of creative people.


“Wizards on Screen, Fans in Real Life” is more lighthearted, with fans Ezra Miller (Credence) and Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) talking about their experiences on set.



Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz), Tina and Newt try to escape the French Ministry of Magic.

The Zouwu comes to Newt's rescue.

A host of Pure-Blood wizards and others gather at Père Lachaise Cemetery in France to hear Grindelwald speak.


Grindelwald's magic threatens to destroy Paris.


“Distinctly Dumbledore” has interviews from David Yates, producer David Heyman, Costume Designer Colleen Atwood and Jude Law, who talk about the connections between the older and younger versions of the character. This is a good one.


“Fantastic Beasts 2” earned a worldwide $653 million-plus gross against a production budget of $200 million according to Box Office Mojo. Still, neither critics nor fans were enthused giving “Crimes of Grindelwald” a 37-percent critic rating and 58-percent for fans on Rottentomatoes. It seems the audience was split pretty much down the middle with comments like “The best type of movies are the ones that make you think” and “Visually a great movie – lacking in everything else” on Amazon.


Adults and young historians know “Fantastic Beasts” won’t get any lighter. Rowling has set up worldwide span of 1926 to 1945 in her story taking us through World War II. Comparisons between Grindelwald and Hitler’s Final Solution are obvious. It also seems to be commenting on today’s politics. Despite Newt, his fantastic creatures, and an awesome young Dumbledore, the grown-up Potterverse is more chilling than inviting.


— Kay Reynolds













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