Samstag, 17. November 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

There's a scene, or rather a moment, in The Crimes of Grindelwald which neatly exemplifies the need for the film's parent franchise – the proposed five-part Fantastic Beasts series, serving as an extension to Harry Potter's Wizarding World – to radically change course in its three remaining instalments in order to succeed narratively and creatively.

The moment occurs when the film makes a stop at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where the audience sees Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), the iconic school's eventual headmaster, teaching a class and off-handedly giving instructions to Professor Minerva McGonagall – one of Harry Potter lore's most popular supporting characters, played so memorably by Maggie Smith in the original film series. What seems like an innocent shoutout at first glance – a playful reference designed to delight fans – is a significant breach of in-universe continuity, and as such, a window into Fantastic Beasts' slapdash approach to storytelling.

For The Crimes of Grindelwald is set in 1927, a full eight years before Minerva McGonagall's birth, according to the timeline suggested by Wizarding World creator and Fantastic Beasts screenwriter J. K. Rowling in her Harry Potter novels and ultimately laid down in her writings for Pottermore, the Wizarding World's official online lexicon. This oversight is damning not merely because Rowling the screenwriter seems to be working against Rowling the prose writer here, but also, and more importantly, because the scene in question does not require McGonagall's presence in the first place.

This obsession with creating links between Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter – darkly reminiscent of the Hobbit trilogy's worst impulses – seriously undermines Rowling's and long-standing Wizarding World director David Yates' attempt to fashion their latest creation into a saga capable of existing on its own terms. Not only do nods like the one to Professor McGonagall distract from Fantastic Beasts' already convoluted plot; they hamstring the development of the new franchise's protagonists.

Like its predecessor, Yates' Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Crimes of Grindelwald is ostensibly centred on Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, reliably endearing), the socially awkward magical zoologist who aids Albus Dumbledore in keeping the peace in the Wizarding World. And in 1927, that peace is especially fragile, as dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (a bland Johnny Depp) escapes from incarceration and seeks to wreak havoc and enslave non-magical people across the world. To that end, he seeks to enlist the help of Credence (Ezra Miller), a young, disillusioned wizard with enormous powers.

Magical zoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, right) helps Professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to stop the Wizarding World from descending into war.
© 2018 Warner Bros. Ent.
What becomes apparent in Crimes is that there is no satisfying way to combine a narrative starring Newt with one focused on the rise of Grindelwald, as one will always take away from the other. Fantastic Beasts is never as engaging as when it depicts its hero interacting with his beloved magical creatures and, to a lesser extent, his friends. But charming as these Arcadian sensibilities may be, they are fundamentally, and increasingly, at odds with the franchise's epic ambitions, as it sets up Grindelwald as the supervillain behind the Wizarding World's version of World War II.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Crimes, while reasonably diverting and unfailingly beautiful to look at, is a tonal and narrative mess, stumbling through more than two hours of nearly impenetrable intrigue, specious plotting, laughable twists and turns, tedious dialogue, and gratuitous name-dropping. The magic, meanwhile, is nowhere to be found.

★★

Montag, 12. November 2018

Trailer: "Pokémon: Detective Pikachu"



"Eigentlich war es ja nur eine Frage der Zeit: Pokémon, die kleinen kämpfenden Videospielmonster aus Japan, gibt es seit 1995; die Elektromaus Pikachu ist eine internationale Ikone, die seit gut 20 Jahren auch aus europäischen und amerikanischen Kinderzimmern nicht mehr wegzudenken ist. Das ursprüngliche Zielpublikum ist längst erwachsen geworden – und damit reif für einen familienfreundlichen Realspielfilm mit CGI-Pokémon und einer gehörigen Portion Nostalgie."

Ganzer Artikel auf Maximum Cinema (online einsehbar).

Samstag, 3. November 2018

Halloween

© Universal Pictures Schweiz

★★★

"Trotz der fehlenden Zahl im Titel ist Greens Halloween eine klassische Fortsetzung: Was im ersten Film funktioniert hat, wird hier auf die Spitze getrieben – mehr Blut, mehr Protagonisten, aufwändiger inszenierte Schreckmomente. Das ist zwar ungemein unterhaltsam, lässt aber mitunter Carpenters schnörkellose Direktheit vermissen."

Ganze Kritik auf Maximum Cinema (online einsehbar).