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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ shows what can happen when an author writes a screenplay. Cinema history has been littered with successful novelists thinking they can also pen hit movie scripts. This hasn’t always been the case with few writers having the skill to effectively switch between two very different mediums. J.K. Rowling writes only her second screenplay for this ‘Fantastic Beasts’ sequel which is part of the popular ‘Harry Potter’ universe. Sadly it proves that Rowling shouldn’t give up her day job with a lacklustre script quickly sinking into murky confusion.

After powerful dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) escapes custody, he sets about gathering a new band of followers. Aiming to raise wizards and witches so they can rule over non-magical beings, Grindelwald’s plans capture the attention of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). With the help of an assortment of wizards, they attempt to hold back Grindelwald’s ruthless power before their world is torn asunder.

Although beautiful to look at, ‘Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald’ is a chore to watch. For fans of the Potter series, who know every minute detail, this may please. For others, who simply want to watch a well-rounded and clearly scripted film, boredom may quickly sink in. There are far too many characters and sub-plots to squeeze into an already over-long movie with Rowling failing to capture the magic of previous Potter films. Those were written by better scriptwriters who knew the basic mechanics of film screenplays.

That isn’t to say ‘Fantastic Beasts 2’ is a total loss as it is clear money has been spent on opulent production design and CGI. These successfully convey the magical world in which all live with the excellent musical arrangements mirroring those of earlier instalments. The performers do their best to not look too confused at the increasingly messy plot with Depp bringing energy in a generally pedestrian production. Overall it feels like a set up for further sequels instead of being its own entity – a mistake a more experienced film writer would have avoided.

‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ is fair entertainment but could have been much better. Whilst spectacle is provided, it’s done without much heart as all go through the motions until the next sequel. It will still make a fortune as ‘Harry Potter’ fans are nothing if not loyal. But such loyalty will be sorely needed if more mediocre works like this reach the silver screen.

Rating out of 10: 5

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

Based on Stieg Larrson’s ‘Millennium’ book series, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ spawned three Swedish language movies as well as an American remake. Whilst the death of the original author signalled the series was finished, money-making success has a way of resurrecting franchises. ‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’ is derived from David Lagercrantz’s continuation novel and serves as a sequel to the American film. Whilst the motivations behind this cinematic resurrection may be suspect, ‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’ is a different beast with an action focus providing a mostly intense thrill-ride.

Computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) still fights for justice. Aided by journalist Mikael (Sverrir Gudnason), Lisbeth uncovers a new web of deception. Discovering a cabal of corrupt politicians and cyber criminals who are running a campaign of terror against helpless prey, Lisbeth and Mikael are caught in a deadly conspiracy. Events swiftly see them in mortal danger as a sinister net from the past closes in around them.

If fans are looking for the same type of dramatic thrills seen in previous films then ‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’ may disappoint. It offers a more action-orientated spin with Lisbeth becoming a female James Bond complete with totally over the top stunts. Whilst this may agitate admirers of the movies and books, ‘Spider’s Web’ isn’t without its plus points. Chief among them are Foy’s energetic performance and a screenplay delving into why her character behaves as she does. The film rests firmly on her shoulders as Gudnason makes little impact as Mikael.

Fede Alvarez’s direction moves the plot at brisk pace and avoids any slow moments. The sequences shot in Stockholm provide the same type of foreboding beauty seen in the other films and are used to great effect. The main stars here are the stunt team with a pleasing eye for ‘keeping it real’ instead of relying on CGI to achieve results. Although seeing so much action in a ‘Dragon Tattoo’ film may feel unusual, the production team offer another interesting take on well-worn material.

‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’ works as long as one doesn’t expect to see a re-tread on previous versions of the characters. In this respect, it’s commendable the movie offers something new instead of resting on its laurels. Those who haven’t seen any of the movies should still enjoy it as an action caper with another instalment likely as long as the box office tills keep ringing.

Rating out of 10: 6