There are certain movies that I think we can all agree are just unnecessary. That doesn’t mean that they are bad or good, just that they weren’t required and add nothing to the story they are telling.
Nearly always these films are sequels or prequels. Or remakes.
I think we could have all done without the most recent “Footloose.” It’s fine, but why?
I’d venture that the majority of unnecessary movies are made when the motive is purely profit. You could argue that all movies are made purely for profit, but there’s a hopefulness and optimism about putting a new story into the world. Think about the “Star Wars” prequels. Sure, George Lucas would probably say he wanted to return to the universe he created because technology had finally caught up with his artistic vision, but really, he and 20th Century Fox were looking to cash in. And they did.
Those movies made all the money in the world, but it won’t change the fact that they are completely unnecessary. They’re bad, too, but that’s beside the point. Everything we needed to know about the characters was revealed in the first film, with a few little tidbits thrown in as the series progressed.
This all brings me around to this week’s blockbuster extravaganza, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” a movie that misses the point and doubles down on the worst part of what made the original “Fantastic Beasts” such a mediocre film.
This film opens a year after the end of its predecessor, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne, is back home in England, his travel privileges having been revoked by the Ministry of Magic. Newt would be happy to stay put and care for his bevy of magical creatures, but his lady love, Tina, has moved to Paris to become an Auror (magical cop) and the separation is getting to him.
Also getting to our poor put-upon hero is one Albus Dumbledore, played by a spry Jude Law, (don’t forget this takes place in the early part of the 20th century, when Dumbledore was merely in his forties) who wants Newt to go off and find the villainous Grindelwald, played by a white-blond punk-cut Johnny Depp.
Seems he and Dumbledore have a complicated relationship and the great professor needs someone else to tackle him. Meanwhile, in another movie, everyone is looking for Credence Barebone, the creepy villain from the last movie that everyone thought had been blown up, but apparently just ran off to join the circus. There’s even more plot besides all that, but honestly, I couldn’t keep it all straight, nor did I care enough to.
This “Fantastic Beasts” suffers from the same problem the original did, and shares a lot in common with what made the “Star Wars” prequels so tough to get through.
It seems that, like Lucas, J.K. Rowling, who wrote this film, has become far more enamored of the minute details of her universe than her fans. All the intrigue and drama with the Ministry of Magic and various characters family trees and how the Lestrange family relates to the sociopolitical state of the French magical government was enough to put me nearly to sleep. I had to take one of the kids to the restroom and by the time I got back I had completely lost the thread.
I’m not an advocate for dumbing the material down by any means, but pay attention to the audience. Your movie is about fantastic beasts. It’s right there in the title. But the beasts play almost no role in the plot whatsoever.
It’s too bad, because the scenes that focus on the animals are fun and cool. There’s a giant cat/dragon that represents Chinese magical tradition and an underwater flying horse made entirely of seaweed. The adorable kleptomaniacal Niffler gets to influence the action a little, but overall, the best parts of the film are sidelined.
Some of the action is really fun, and aside from Redmayne, whose twitchy, nervous affect I couldn’t stand, the actors are top-notch — although, I thought we, as a society, had decided we were done with Johnny Depp.
The movie looks good, and my kids liked it. But for me, it had too many tedious details and not enough fun. The best parts of the movie, besides the animals, were the few moments we spent back at Hogwarts.
Briefly you are reminded of what we all liked about these movies in the first place. Unfortunately, those parts are short-lived and only serve to hit home the fact that you are, as my mother-in-law so deftly pointed out, just watching Harry Potter without Harry Potter. Grade: C+
“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is rated PG-13 for adult themes and a few scares.
Chris Jenness is an art teacher and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.
• By Chris Jenness