Tag: Paris

The fatal flaw in Crimes of Grindelwald

The fatal flaw in Crimes of Grindelwald

With Screen Actors Guild and Visual Effects Society voting for academy awards approaching, my family has been spending the last few days watching a lot of movie screeners we’ve been accruing. Hence my (not so) little review of Aquaman last night and my intent to do some more 2018 movie discussions this weekend.

Today we watched two movies with interesting points I wanted to talk about, but Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald wound up being a much more impassioned subject than I expected. So I think I’ll save Green Book for later.

Gotta split up my writing a little bit, get some mileage for my daily writings.

I’ll be focusing more on one specific point that I feel did this film and the themes it creates a huge disservice, so the post as a whole won’t be as much of a general ‘go see or don’t see’ review. Those elements will be there, but I’ll be a bit more open with spoilers and such.

So if that concerns you, you’ve been warned.

There’s no reason to hide the fact that I’ve always been a big Harry Potter fan. Grew up reading all the books with my Mom, and we’ve seen the movies together too.

I’m not exactly that super-fan who remembers each detail about the series, as that’s a kind of person I’ve met and felt pretty inadequate next to. But I am a huge fan all the same, and I’ve been excited to see Crimes of Grindelwald.

A lot of that excitement actually stems from the fact that I quite enjoyed the first Fantastic Beasts movie in its own right.

It had a very fun energy to examining wizards in America, rather than Britain, in the 1920’s. But that along wouldn’t have carried the movie quite as well without Eddie Redmayne taking the helm as Newt Scamander.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s always something charming about the copacetic magic of Daniel Radcliffe and his friends evolving from innocent school kids to warriors in a world-changing duel against wizard Hitler.

But after eight movies following those kids, it was pretty refreshing to watch someone new, and Redmayne was definitely something new and refreshing.

I actually don’t think I fully understood what was so nice about his character until I watched this video by the Pop Culture Detective about the actor’s more nontraditional take on a usually hyper-masculine hero archetype and how it goes to enrich the movie’s themes.

I’d highly recommend watching that, because it puts some nice perspective into what made Newt’s hijinx-filled journey through New York so fun.

Crimes of Grindelwald takes things in a vastly different direction than the original Fantastic Beasts. From the first few moments Newt is present, it’s revealed that the fun adventure in Fantastic Beasts was all in service of a young Albus Dumbledore (played fairly well by Jude Law) trying to get the protagonist involved in a fight against Johnny Depp’s older wizard Hitler, Grindelwald.

The second movie takes on a far darker tone and digs way deeper into the lore of the universe (much like the later Harry Potter stories), and this tonal shift colors the first with an interesting bit of hindsight.

Depp’s character perfectly highlights the weird and uncomfortable air this change creates. He’s sometimes doing a goofy Jack Sparrow-esque routine of glancing into windows wide-eyed, but those moments happen concurrently with scenes where he and his people are slaughtering families.

I wasn’t sure I liked the dichotomy being played out until later scenes came up that showed how his almost goofier, more relatable side makes him an enticing figure in the wizarding world, the kind of leader people will follow no matter how monstrous his means to an end are.

It plays well into the rise of fascism undercurrent to the movie (which conveniently takes place before World War II and uses the impending war as a plot device), and in the end I loved the way every character’s story weaved in.

… Except for one of them, which became such a problem for me that I’d almost say it ruined a significant chunk of the movie.

Ezra Miller’s Credence was a huge part of the first movie, as it was revealed the boy who essentially housed a demonic creature was being conditioned by Grindelwald to help destroy the government. As the Pop Culture Detective lays out in his video, part of the tragedy that made Fantastic Beasts so compelling comes when Newt cannot save Credence before he’s torn apart by magic attacks.

It was a really powerful scene…

Until you get to this movie and find out he’s somehow still alive?

Unless I missed something, there’s no explanation as to how or why Credence survived. Just that fact that Newt won’t help the government try to kill him again.

As a result of this early reveal, most of the plot lines for main characters are extremely reiterative of the first movie. They’re searching for Credence before he can be used by Grindelwald for evil.

It made me feel like the first movie mattered far less, and Miller’s portrayal of a far more darkly-influenced Credence was a less compelling compelling subject to save than the scared child of Fantastic Beasts.

My problem wasn’t that his character has developed, it’s that his character should have been dead.

Without that, it felt like so much of the world and it’s characters took too many steps back from their developments.

That was enough of a problem for me that no matter how much I enjoyed the slowly-converging plot threads, the lovely European backdrops and the beasts that made the first movie so fantastic, the overall package felt much more empty.

… Oh, and for some reason all of the advertising focuses a lot on the Deathly Hallows imagery, but I don’t believe any of that showed up in the movie. Just saying.

That’s just my opinion on what really hurt an otherwise great movie, though. But if you have a different take on the issue, feel free to let me know!

I’m always up to opening a den of discussion.

Impossible to Miss

Impossible to Miss

There were many reasons why DC’s 2017 cinematic film Justice League was a critical flop.

Amongst them was the fact that some of the CGI was kind of wonky. The fight scenes, particularly during the climactic fight against a dark red backdrop, were mostly hit-or-miss.

However, arguably the most disastrously well-known CGI mishap in the movie was Superman’s mouth.

See, as the story goes, Henry Cavill moved on to take part in Mission Impossible: Fallout after he finished recording his scenes for Justice League. The part required him to grow a bushy mustache.

Then DC decided to reshoot parts of Justice League after Joss Whedon took over as Director. By then, Cavill was full mustache mode and not allowed to shave due to Paramount stepping in.

So much money was spent digitally removing the mustache, and everyone universally agrees the effect was awful.

True story.

While that may have become one of the downfalls of DC’s big crossover event, now that I’ve seen the new Mission Impossible… I think it was worth it to save this movie.

Fallout, the latest in the long-running Tom Cruise tentpole series of action-adventure spy thrillers, is a great movie. Action-packed, well-acted and full of some gorgeous cinematography.

Yet… The whole isn’t necessarily a sum of its parts. For all of the wonderful things within Fallout, it feels incredibly bloated at its two-and-a-half hour runtime.

Frankly that was the biggest complaint my family pretty much collectively came to after leaving the theatre. Each scene on its own was pretty wonderful, but a good chunk of them could have been easily left on the cutting room floor without losing anything. Making the film better, somewhat more concise in fact.

For instance, as the trailers show, much of the movie is set in Paris, France. However, the climax of the film takes place in Kashmir. There’s an entire sequence between those two locations that takes place in London, England which could have easily been cut down wildly and happen in Paris as well.

There are also far too many action scenes. The most prevalent ones in the trailers, a fight including Tom Cruise and Henry Cavill in a bathroom, happens early in the flick. It’s wonderfully choreographed and edge-of-your-seat intense.

But then there are easily six or seven massive action scenes throughout the rest of the film which all give the same rush without a break. It’s exhausting in practice, despite the fact that each fight or chase is memorable on its own.

Peter Rosenthal puts it best in his three-minute review of the film for the Onion honestly:

But action is what’s expected of a Mission Impossible movie. Tom Cruise will always be doing his own stunts. It’ll always, always be fun and exciting — even if slightly overdone this time around.

What I hadn’t necessarily been expecting out of Fallout were the wonderful interactions between Cavill and Cruise, as well as some of the actually stunning shots in the film.

On the first point, watching Cavill come into the MI universe with such a robust, fun role actually made me mad. He is a great actor who really sells a complex (though somewhat predictable) character who fits right into an already well-established canon.

I really wish DC utilized him better. Because if I’m showing my cards, the DCEU Superman isn’t really that great in my opinion. But now I know that he could be fantastic if he was given a better set of circumstances to inhabit.

As a side note, when I mention Cavill’s character being predictable, the same could essentially be said for most of the movie. Many of the plot beats are set up well in advanced and fairly easy to read for anyone who has enjoyed their fair share of spy thrillers.

But I feel it’s a testament to Fallout’s screenplay that even when early film predictions one might have, do come out correct by the end, it’s still a wild ride getting there. A ride which takes those predictable ideas and does utilize them in ways which still have surprises and intriguing twists.

Honestly I think a good reason for that is the chemistry between Cruise and Cavill. While the other members of Ethan Hunt’s crew do still have significant roles, they take more of a backseat to Superman and he really steps it up.

The other thing I loved about Fallout were a number of the action set pieces throughout. As I mentioned, much of the movie takes place in Paris and boy do they make good use of that locale.

Fallout showcases a variety of things in Paris, from famous landmarks to smaller alleyways that paint a real picture of what can be seen.

Their use of landmarks in particular are very well done. Probably my favorite action scene in the film was a chase between a motorcycle-riding Cruise and the Parisian police. In it, there’s a long tracking shot of Cruise driving backwards through traffic in a circle around the Arc de Triomphe.

It’s a gorgeous shot and really well-paced within the scene to be exciting and cool without lasting too long as to lose its luster.

There are scenes like this all over the movie that are captivating… But like I mentioned before, falters in that there are arguably too many of them. There was enough content in Fallout to easily fill two movies, and a more hefty editor would have been appreciated.

The climax of the movie is especially bloated and honestly jumps the shark to a ridiculous degree. Which is saying something considering we’re discussing Mission Impossible.

I won’t give too much away. I’ll just say it was the clearest case of ‘they should not have survived this’ in the movie, which winds up highlighting how many times the characters should have died throughout the entire rest of the flick.

In spite of that, even the climax takes many clichés of the genre and presents them in a way that’s engaging. So I’ll give the filmmakers credit in that regard.

In all honesty, if the Mission Impossible franchise is something you enjoy, it’s likely you’ve already seen the movie. It’s certainly a re-watchable guilty pleasure of a series for my family. In that case, I’m sure you enjoyed this movie as much as we did.

Because in spite of its somewhat glaring issues, it’s still a fantastic Mission Impossible movie at heart. One with great action, stunning visuals, some well-crafted character moments and an intriguing collision of at least five-or-six different groups that doesn’t really lose focus or become confusion.

If you are new to Mission Impossible, however, just know that this particular entry in the series is very long and very draining to sit through. A good amount of it could have been cut out, even if it was great.

Basically the movie was too much of a good thing, but still good all the same.

Plus, as far as I was aware, it managed to have a number of beautiful female characters involved in pivotal action and character-driven scenes — and none of them got undressed once during the movie.

So good on you MI crew. Glad to see you had some restraint.