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


In Hollywood, the phrase ‘desperate times calls for desperate measures’ is one eagerly held. When rights to certain cinematic franchises are nearly running out, the studios churn out films in the hope of capturing an audience and retaining said rights. ‘Venom’ is a case in point. A part of their ‘Spider-man’ movie property, the Sony studio is keen for another money-spinning franchise. When desperation can clearly be seen is when things usually fall apart. But ‘Venom’ has a few good points even if it wears its Hollywood cynicism close to its sleeves.

After a scandal damages his reputation, journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) looks to revive his career. Aided by girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams), Eddie investigates the secretive Life Foundation. Its leader, noted inventor Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), is currently experimenting on alien symbiotes. When one accidentally merges with Eddie, his world turns upside down. Graced with huge powers, his renames himself Venom and faces an armada of villains wanting his lethal abilities for their own nefarious needs.

‘Venom’ is a movie of halves. One has a story divorcing itself from the original comic-book source material without a compelling origin story to replace it. The other half gradually drags itself out of its initial rut to offer several fun moments. The original ‘Venom’ origin is far better than the clichéd effort seen with a poor central villain exuding little menace. The finale is a mess with Williams completely wasted as the love interest who wears one of the worst wigs in cinematic history.

Managing to rise above self-inflicted dross is Hardy’s quirky performance and the great action sequences. A car chase through the streets of San Francisco is a definite highlight with the excellent photography wringing much from the city’s vistas. About halfway through ‘Venom’ the script finds its feet and gradually develops the psychological friction between Brock and the alien symbiote. This adds depth amongst the poor writing and goes quite a way ensuring viewers remain invested until the conclusion.

Whether ‘Venom’ succeeds in spinning off into yet another superhero franchise remains to be seen. Its shortcomings highlight the ‘script by committee’ work ethic currently being used in Hollywood. Whilst not as bad as feared, ‘Venom’s sequel needs to duplicate the good points of this first entry if it’s to become a beloved part of fantasy fandom lore.

Rating out of 10: 5