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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald returned audiences to the Wizard World that was the Wizarding World before that of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. New Scamander and company are back in action but this time we are promised are harder tie in to the previous novels/films we’d seen before. No way around it, the film overall seemed to not take off with audiences as much as Where To Find them to significantly less money and appreciation. We’ll be able to further study (Or for some, check out for the first time) when the second of the Harry Potter prequel series makes its 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray debut on March 12th. Preorder the film using the Amazon link provided below the review.

Film 

At the end of the first film, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) was captured by MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), with the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escaped custody and has set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings. In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them launched a brand new adventure through the past of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. All great fantasy film franchises must follow up by going backward right? Prequels are so hot? The first adventure of Newt Scamander and friends was a nice little standalone fare that left possibilities of a continued adventure that could go in any direction they’d love to take it and seemed to resonate overall pretty well. Its sequel, The Crimes of Grindelwald features the return of some familiar and added bonus elements, but tries a little too hard to jump into a more connected Harry Potter narrative as opposed to just being comfortable and exploring what the previous adventure had established.

The Crimes of Grindelwald’s biggest crime seems to be the script is overplotted, sloppy (Its shocking how bad the throw away set up for Ezra Miller’s character is still alive is) and completely convoluted, bound and determined to shock us with a grand reveal it holds onto until the closing moments. And once revealed, it very much rivals the grand twist at the end of Order of the Phoenix which is pretty much an “eh”. But instead of that one being a prophecy we’d figured was the whole point of the series from the first book, this one feels quite forced and begging to add some sort of meat to chew on that really isn’t all that tasty when it comes down to it. In keeping us from this reveal, we are given a big red herring through the journey of this film that winds up in one of the most over-expositioned, convoluted explanations I’ve ever seen put into a major franchise film to a point that is almost infuriating for having us lead through both this false flag and the ridiculous explanation of what it really was.

While my gripes feel big, its still pretty entertaining on its core levels. The returning characters are still charming and I’m happy to see them back together and not tossed to the side in favor of the more familiar ones. There are also some pretty cool action beats in the film (The opening escape sequence is a series highlight) and a heartbreaking moment that works and should have been given the attention  to its buildup instead of all the setups for a red herring and building the reveal. There is still an enjoyment in the effects, magic and adventure aspects of the film, but we could be nearing the end of that flashiness and demanding something more compelling in the next journey.

One thing the film must be commended for is that it doesn’t crutch on Dumbledore’s addition to the story. He’s a player, albeit in a more cameo-friendly fashion. Jude Law is absolutely wonderful here and has you eager to see him play a bigger part in future films. Not a popular opinion probably (I’m judging a performance here, not a person), but Johnny Depp is terrific here. This is his best “goofy-looking” role in a blockbuster since maybe Sweeney Todd.  His Grindelwald is stealthy in his eeriness and you can also understand how convincing and compelling he may be in finding followers. The finale of the film offers a grand moment for the villain and Depp does not disappoint. Its his underplaying that really is valued here and one of the strengths of the film.

David Yates and J.K. Rowling’s latest addition to the Wizarding World franchise is one that is overcooked and underwhelming, but still manages to entertain on its more basic levels. A shorter film would have been more forgivable, but this one has an insanely long runtime. I’m going to give this one the benefit of the doubt as I still enjoyed watching it at a minimal level and feel this is a film that we might have to wait and see how the whole thing plays out before properly assessing it. Was it a necessary bridge or ripping off of a bandaid to get things in place for a great run or was it the quick dissension off of a steep cliff? Time will tell, and I’m still looking forward to the next Fantastic Beasts adventure.

Video 

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald debuts on the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format in native 4K, being shot at 6.5K and finished with a 4K DI. This is a very complimentary image to the first film. The bright skies and settings all match aesthetics quite pleasingly. The crisp image features a terrific array of refined color and detail on display. The Blu-ray edition has a very terrific picture quality, but this still stands as a solid step up from that image.

Depth:  The film has a great and ideal depth of field on display. The camera and characters move with such confidence and smoothness through a spacious arena in every frame. No motion distortions occur at all through the film.

Black Levels: Here’s where the major difference comes into play as the natural blacks give this a inherently darker look. The saturation and detail maintained here is very impressive. Katherine Waterston’s leather jacket is a whole lot of wonderful in texture and look to the ouch and that’s not counting rust details on cage bars, hair follicles and patterns on scarves and more. There is a little bit of crush on the opening Warner Bros logo but no other instances the rest of the way.

Color Reproduction: Colors are very strong here with outstanding saturation. The HDR is on point with glow coming from street lamps, fire and magical beams among other things. There is a sort of vintage beauty in how it handles the fabrics of clothing, tents and other set colors.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and maintain a consistency from the opening logos to the final credit reel. Facial features and textures like makeup, stubble, lip texture and more show through clearly from any reasonable camera distance in the frame.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Turkish

Dynamics: The Crimes of Grindelwald unsurprisingly comes with a fantastical and fun Dolby Atmos track. The last film had and expertly put together mix and this one follows suit. From the quiet moments to the loud rushing action, this track is plenty loose, free and loudly consuming. You’ll get your magic’s worth here.

Height: The ceiling channels pick up and are utilized frequently with great accuracy and never showboaty. It always feels right when used in the mix. And it gets off to a wondrous start right from the opening action sequence and prison scenes.

Low Frequency Extension: The low end deep notes, crashes, explosions, booms and rushes of things past the screen all thwomp on your subwoofer with great impact.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is a well rounded, travelled and rolling track that gives identity as well as a piece of the puzzle to every channel. Every bit of action is well documented in its journey through a frame and every environment has no corner left unturned. Its a encompassing experience.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp and pick up deeper voices with a soothing boom.

Extras 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald comes with the Blu-ray edition and a digital copy of the film. It features both the theatrical cut and an extended cut of the film. Special Features are found on the standard Blu-ray disc.

J.K. Rowling: A World Revealed (HD, 10:15) – The author (Along with some input from David Yates and producer David Heyman) discusses her process in coming up with the story of Fantastic Beasts and how she had stuff, but it was in blocks and open to change or additions. She’s also intrigued by this story focusing on wizards as adults and shifts its focus to the character of Grindelwald and many different themes, real world issues and such he represents and they are able to portray in the film.

Wizards on Screen, Fans in Real Life (HD, 19:22) – Ezra Miller and Evanna Lynch (Luna from the Harry Potter series) watch The Crimes Of Grindelwald and have a geeky fan discussion about their love for the books, films and series.

Distinctly Dumbledore (HD, 9:31) – This featurette focuses on the character, casting and performance of Jude Law as young Dumbledore. JK Rowling and Jude Law tell that she had told him information on the character that no one else but her has ever known so he could better portray the character from the jump. Jude talks his preparation and things he borrowed from the previous Dumbledore actors.

Unlocking Scene Secrets (HD, 49:09) – Through a 6-part series we get a pretty full on behind the scenes of the film as well as story direction with using all the new places, sets and characters as a guide to get through them and then focues on the grand finale of the film to cap it off. Its mainly led by Rowling, Yates and Heyman but members of the cast and crew show up to give thoughts throughout (And yes, Johnny Depp does show up and its pretty fascinating to see their process in getting his perfect line deliveries).

  • The Return to Hogwarts
  • Newt’s Menagerie
  • Credence, Nagini and the Circus Arcanus
  • Paris and Place Cachée
  • Ministere des Affaires Magiques
  • Grindelwald’s Escape and the Ring of Fire

Deleted Scenes (HD, 14:23)

Digital Exclusive

Extended Version of the Film (2:21:20) – There’s a quick little intro that lasts about 25 seconds that runs before it.

Summary 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a step in a less interesting direction that the creators maybe thought too necessary to tie things in to the original mythology. Overall, its solid entertainment, but is it a one-time view kinda entertainment or one that you can continue to return to as most of this series has been. I’m not so sure yet, but we’ll see as the series continues and completes. This 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray however should be returned to for its terrific sight and sound and also packs a nice load of informative bonus features to boot. This is the best way to own it for sure, whether its day one for you or not depends on how much you enjoyed it.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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