The Morning After: Jan. 2, 2019

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

With the promise of presenting a history of the wizarding world of Harry Potter by exploring the events that lead to the downfall of Voldemort’s villainous predecessor, J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. have done an incredible amount of world building with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald providing plenty of new background information, new characters, and new plotlines that are sure to fill the remaining three films in the pentalogy.

Not much was known about Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) before this new series of films except that he was well known for writing the definitive book on mystical creatures called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. That title became that of the first film with the Fantastic Beasts name carrying forward to the remaining features. This second film moves the action out of New York City and into the magical streets of Paris where Newt and company are trying to find Credence Barebone before Grindelwald can get his clutches on him. As the film unfolds, Newt and his muggle companion Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) set off to Paris to find their respective paramours, sisters Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Queenie (Alison Sudol) Goldstein respectively, and potentially thwart Grindelwald’s schemes while on their quest.

The performances are all solid, as can always be expected from this franchise. The narrative is a bit convoluted at times, but there are lots of plot points that must be set up now for future films in the series much like the now-complete Harry Potter universe. It’s more difficult to see those connections now because we don’t have future books as a frame of reference for our thoughts and speculations. While it may feel complex and overabundant now, once all of the films have been released, we may see the fruits of Rowling’s labors grow to full height.

As always, the production is mesmerizing from the glorious effects to the fascinating setting and costumes, and marvelous renderings of creatures heretofore unseen in the Potter universe. Director David Yates does a lot with the material and his evocation of tone and pacing is still solid and while there are some scenes that don’t quite feel fully formed, some of that may be a result of the requisite world building and narrative seeding that must be done in these early outings.


If there’s one descriptor that can be applied to Warner Bros. latest DC Extended Universe film, it’s loud. Aquaman is a veritable smorgasbord of sound effects, musical queues, and deafening dialogue that often leaves the audience dizzy.

Jason Momoa is an affable film lead as the titular Aquaman. Born Arthur Currie to human lighthouse keeper Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison) and Atlantean queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), Arthur grows up learning how to fight from Atlantean counselor Nuidis Vulko (Willem Dafoe) all while the new king of Atlantis, Orm (Patrick Wilson), plots the ultimate demise of the landwalkers for their affronts to the natural world.

The pro-environmental message is quickly lost in the numerous suboceanic combat sequences that play out like a hyperkinetic video game replete with fancy effects and standard plot twist revelations that do little more than excuse the action without necessity. What made Wonder Woman so great was that it spent just as much time on the intimate details as it did on the quintessential battle scenes, which seemed more of a fitting end than a justified expense.

A deafening soundscape makes for an overbearing two-plus-hour experience where every moment is filled with some sort of aural cacaphony when sound under the waves should at least be muted or otherwise deadened. Director James Wan missed out on an opportunity for creative expressionism with an aural bombardment of this order. There are some fascinating uses of sound effects here, but most of them are busier than a Transformers movie with the thunderous and often out of place musical score by Rupert Gregson-Williams who has seldom been known for his subtlety.

The visual panoply that exists in the Atlantean universe is expansive and oftentimes beautiful, but the excessive amounts of Visual Effects leave the audience frequently in awe, but sometimes unimpressed, most notably with the rather languid and silly way many of the characters move within the water. This is a film that has so many visual elements to it that it’s hard to pick just one for recognition while it’s equally impossible to figure out which is most oppressive or offensive.

While the prior films in the DCEU, Wonder Woman excepted, have all had issues with narrative convenience, silly dialogue, and bland world building, Aquaman is the perfect embodiment of how the post-Zack Snyder universe is unable to throw off the shackles he placed on them an to exemplify all of the problems the DCEU must still overcome before being able to wrest the mantle of creative energy that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has laid claim to for over ten years now.

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