About Tyler F.M. Edwards

Freelance writer, fantasy novelist, and nerd of the highest order.

Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

I almost didn’t bother seeing this movie. The various controversies surrounding the film, and especially Johnny Depp, left a very sour taste in my mouth, and I started to feel as if paying to watch it would be a violation of my own values.

The poster for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of GrindelwaldBut perhaps my values aren’t so ironclad, because here we are. Hey, I loved the original.

In an attempt to balance my karma and/or assuage my guilty conscience, I did make a $10 donation to the North York Women’s Shelter. If anyone else is feeling similarly conflicted, I’d recommend making a similar donation to a charity in their community.

Anyway, on to the movie.

As I said above, I was very impressed by the last Fantastic Beasts movie. It provided a surprisingly dark and powerful tale with far more depth than I anticipated. Crimes of Grindelwald is perhaps not quite so impressive, but I still enjoyed it.

Once again, my expectations were defied. With a title like “Crimes of Grindelwald,” I was expecting an action-packed, Empire Strikes Back style tour de force. Instead, the experience is much more introspective and character-driven.

The theme of Crimes seems to be the wizarding world choosing sides. Grindelwald is marshaling his army, and people must choose to either stand with him, or against him. This takes place both on a grand, societal scale and a more intimate scale as the cast — including all the main characters from last time plus a few new faces — also must begin to take sides.

I don’t want to say too much, but you should expect to be surprised by how some characters choose to place their loyalties. I sure as hell was.

Newt Scamander and Albus Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of GrindelwaldThe cast of Crimes of Grindelwald is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness.

On the one hand, every character is once again excellent, both in terms of writing and acting. Even Newt’s started to grow on me.

Much as it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, I must give special praise to Johnny Depp, who absolutely nails Grindelwald’s dark charisma. The cartoonish evil of Voldemort this is not; as sinister as he is, Grindelwald is a man I can believe people would want to follow.

However, there is a downside. The cast has become quite bloated. On top of all the characters from the first movie, quite a number of new ones have been added, and while they’re also good characters played by talented actors, there just isn’t enough time in the movie to give every character their due. It’s spread too thin.

As a devoted Tina fanboy, I was particularly distressed by how small her role in this movie was. She’s hardly there, and she doesn’t contribute anything of value to the story. Honestly, she doesn’t need to be included at all. It would be almost exactly the same movie without her.

Aside from that issue, though, Crimes of Grindelwald is another surprisingly dark and thoughtful movie that is worth your time if your morals are as evidently flexible as mine.

Overall rating: 8.1/10

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On the Stargate: Universe Comics

I love Stargate: Universe. If you’re a regular reader, you probably know it’s one of my favourite shows of all time. Its premature cancellation left a hole in my heart that’s never quite been filled.

Cover art for an issue of the Stargate: Universe comicsWhen it was announced the series would continue in a series of canonical comics, my feelings were decidedly mixed. I want to cheer any continuation of Universe, but I’m not a big comics reader, and it’s not the same without the fantastic performances of actors like Robert Carlyle and Louis Ferreira. More worryingly, the comics would not be written by the same people who brought us SG:U, nor would they follow the long-term series plan created by Robert Cooper.

Still, while strolling through Indigo, my eyes landed on a compilation of the first six issues of the comics, and I couldn’t contain my curiosity.

It was a decidedly mixed experience.

The one thing the comics do very well is capture the characters. They’re all immediately recognizable as their old selves. Rush is still a shifty bastard, Eli is still a lovable dork, and Colonel Young is the gruff father figure we all know and love. Even their speech patterns have been captured perfectly. I was constantly hearing the actors’ voices in my head as I was reading.

The good news, sadly, pretty much ends there.

This is basically Deus Ex Machina: The Series. It’s just an endless spree of incredibly lucky breaks for the Destiny and its crew. If that sounds out of character for SG:U, congratulations, you’ve seen at least one episode of the series. The tone is just way off, and the end result is the removal of much of the struggle that made Universe special as a story.

What makes this even more egregious is that the story doesn’t really advance any other way. We learn nothing new about the mysteries of the Destiny or its mission. The eternally rushed comic book medium doesn’t have space to develop the relationships and character arcs that were so memorable on the show. The entire focus is on the festival of deus ex machinas.

These comics are the brainchild of writers who previously worked on Stargate: Atlantis, and honestly, I can’t escape the impression that their main goal was to turn Universe into Atlantis so they’d be back on familiar ground.

I’m a fan of Atlantis, too, but what made Universe special was that it broke new ground. It had its own character that was separate from the other incarnations of Stargate. The writers of these comics either don’t understand or don’t appreciate that, and for that reason I don’t think I can give the comics a recommendation, much as I wish it were otherwise.