Cinema Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Hands up anybody who is still amazed by the technicoloured yawn of CGI. In this unspeakably dreary, convoluted and barely watchable blockbuster we are not so much wrapped in it as bludgeoned by it. The movie is the second instalment of an intended series of five (depressing, isn’t it?), which are meant to provide the back-story of the Harry Potter epic. Out of curiosity, I read the first of JK Rowling’s wizarding novels at the time of its publication and thought of it as a fantastical re-imagining of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. I was astonished by the phenomenon that it evolved into, but can’t see how those kids who were Hogwarts devotees would be, as grown-ups, interested in going back in time to explore the pre-Harry days – unless Rowling, who hardly needs the money, wrote the screenplay aiming to win a whole new generation of fans. To be fair, it is visually pleasing prior to the smoke and mirrors taking over, when the action is set in Paris between the wars. In muted, warm tones and with the City of Light’s cobbled streets and cafes, it is easy to be lulled into thinking that director David Yates might be ushering us into a charming period piece – until, that is, the players produce their little magic wands, like chopsticks that they’ve pinched from the local Chinese diner, and start pinging bizarre creatures and each other with jets of flame. How exciting – not. Newt Scamander (Eddy Redmayne) is the freckled hero; Jude Law, of whom we don’t see enough, is the éminence grise at Hogwarts; and the ridiculous Johnny Depp is the bad guy, Grindelwald. Around them swirl a plethora of not very well defined characters and what I took to be a pet platypus, except it does not have webbed feet. Carmen Ejogo and Zoë Kravitz provide agreeable eye-candy, but emotional connection is minimal and the jumpy narrative is incoherent. Obsession with visual effects and big noise reduce the whole to a shambles.

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