J.K. Rowling’s world of wizardry is back in theaters next weekend with the release of FantasticBeasts: TheCrimesofGrindelwald. It’s the second in a series of five planned features as it looks to conjure up huge box office dollars like predecessor FantasticBeastsandWheretoFindThem did.
Early reviews are out and the reaction is mixed at 56% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. Not even the most acclaimed HarryPotter pics were ever considered awards contenders for major categories. However, down the line technical races are another story.
Two years ago, the first Beasts managed two Oscar nominations: Production Design and Costume Design. It won the latter. There’s no reason to think it couldn’t be a factor in both of those categories again. That said, voters could feel they’ve already honored the franchise with part 1. Visual Effects and Makeup and Hairstyling are in the realm of possibility, if unlikely.
Bottom line: the costumes especially could garner attention, but don’t expect Grindelwald to exceed (and maybe not match) the first movie.
The wizarding world of J.K. Rowling is back next weekend when Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald debuts. This is the follow-up to 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which precedes the events of the massive Harry Potter franchise. David Yates (who made the last four Potter flicks and the first Beasts) is back directing. Returning cast members include Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoe Kravitz, and Johnny Depp, whose role as the villainous title character will expand from his cameo in the predecessor. Jude Law joins the party as a younger Dumbledore.
There is no doubt that Grindelwald will easily top the charts upon its release, just as all Rowling universe titles have. The real question is how it opens in comparison to 2016’s effort, which premiered on the same November weekend. I believe there’s some solid historical data to consider.
In 2001, the first Potter film (The Sorcerer’s Stone) made $90 million out of the gate. One year later, follow-up Chamber of Secrets made just a tad less at $88 million. This seems like a likely scenario with Grindewald.
The first Beasts took in $74.4 million for its start two years ago and I’ll put the sequel right under that for a low 70s beginning.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opening weekend prediction: $70.1 million
Now that Harry Potter’s wand has been cinematically retired (at least until Warner Bros figures out how to eventually resuscitate him), it’s J.K. Rowling to the rescue with FantasticBeastsandWheretoFindThem. This is the first entry in the wizardry world with a screenplay directly from the famed author who created it. This expands greatly on her 2001 novel (which is when Harry debuted onscreen) to create another franchise meant to draw youngsters into its spell, as well as Potter fans of all ages.
In order to achieve that goal, David Yates is back directing. He’s responsible for the last four features in the Potterverse. Our central character this time around is Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a magizoologist from London who comes to New York City circa 1926 with a briefcase full of creatures. It’s not clear immediately why he’s in the Big Apple, but his back story tells us of his time at a little school called Hogwarts where he was expelled and was tutored by a much younger Dumbledore.
Wizards need to be registered stateside and Newt finds himself generating the skepticism of Tina (Katherine Waterston), who works for MACUSA, the Magical Congress of the United States of America (obviously). She’s frustrated with her job, which is headed by its President (Carmen Ejogo) and enforced by Colin Farrell’s head of security. Newt and Tina team up to protect his various beasts and those who wish to destroy them. It’s not a two-person team as Newt befriends aspiring baker and World War I vet Jacob (Dan Fogler). Tina’s mind reading sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) is also involved and is the apple of Jacob’s eye. Before we continue with the rest of the review, let me declare that the subplot of Jacob and Queenie’s flirtation and budding romance was my favorite thing about the movie. Fogler serves as the general comic relief here anyway and does so quite wonderfully. Sudol shines in her first role. Their chemistry has genuine magic and if there was ever a case for a rom com spin-off of a hoped for multi-billion dollar franchise, this is it.
Moving on, that’s a small but very winning part of the two-hour plus running time. I wish I could say the chemistry between Newt and Tina was as impressive, but it’s not. Tina is a bit of a blank slate in this first installment and it certainly remains to be seen whether Redmayne’s Newt will come anywhere close to being as beloved as you know who. He’s got a long way to go. Not even Harry Potter could have sold doing a “mating dance” with a titillated CG rhino and neither can Newt. On the other hand, Beasts has its own version of a StarWars-like cantina scene with Ron Perlman’s cool voicing of a nefarious creation and it’s a highlight.
There are other performances worthy of note, including Ezra Miller as an abused teen with mysterious powers and Samantha Morton as his wizard hating adopted mom doing the abuse. Our main villain Grindelwald is mostly just spoken of but not seen (kind of like Voldemort was for a bit), but we know he’ll play a bigger role as the series moves along.
FantasticBeasts is heavy on effects (most of them eye-catching) and creating the visually arresting template for sequels. I didn’t think it reached a Sorcerer’sStone level of quality as far as part 1’s, but Rowling is generally successful in making us curious about what comes next with this real and generated crop of characters.