Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Director: David Yates Writer: J.K. Rowling Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, William Nadylam, Kevin Guthrie, Jude Law, Johnny Depp Studio: Warner Bros. Rated PG-13| 134 Minutes Release Date: November 16, 2018
Another Fantastic Beasts film is a great excuse to revisit the ever-expanding wizarding world of Harry Potter. It proves that there is still a lot of mythology to explore and stories that need to be told. However, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a poor attempt to continue that story.
Rather than build upon the foundation of the title franchise, the sequel is far too concerned with building its own franchise and treats its own characters like exposition pieces that are to be discarded when they have served their purpose. My full review, below.
Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald sees powerful dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) escape a prisoner transfer in New York. Now free, Grindelwald moves forward with his plan to gather wizard and witch followers to help him raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings. And Credence (Ezra Miller) is the key to helping that happen. However, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) recruits Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to help bring Credence in for safe keeping. Unfortunately, Newt is in a bit of trouble himself. However, with the help of Tina (Katherine Waterston), Jacob (Dan Fogler) and Queenie (Alison Sudol), they will try to prevent Grindelwald from succeeding with his plans and find Credence before the Ministry of Magic kills him.
The highly anticipated sequel is just a bunch of flashy magic made to distract us from the real problems that affect it. Namely, poor narrative structure and terrible pacing. The film is so hung up about the impending war that it forgets that it has its own story to tell. What makes things worse is that everything that made the first film so magical and charming is absent in the sequel. On top of that, there are hardly any fantastic beasts to be found.
It’s too frustrating to sort out all of the subplots that are in this. All it really does is just make things more convoluted than they should be. Aside from Newt’s new mission, there are a handful of other subplots that really have nothing to do with the overall story.
Not only that but the film comes with extra filler. Newt is caught up in a love triangle with Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) and her fiancé Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner). That’s right, Theseus is Newt’s brother. Then there is a lover’s quarrel between Jacob and Queenie. Meanwhile, Credence is searching for his identity and birth mother. Grindelwald rallying the troops with his dark and seductive rhetoric. With so many subplots, the film spreads itself too thin, and it soon becomes an exhausting process to understand what is going on.
And even with so much going on, it really doesn’t matter, because we all know how this will end. With yet another “to be continued.” The problem with Crimes of Grindelwald is that it treats its own characters like exposition pieces. It doesn’t even bother to develop them or have them learn from their past mistakes. There are no repercussions for all of the collateral damage caused in Paris. The film isn’t even concerned with finding those fantastic beasts. They are just used as filler. Although a Niffler and a Bowtruckle make another appearance.
While the film is busy trying to lay the foundation for the future of the franchise, it tries to make up by giving its characters those convoluted subplots. However, this backfires as the characters are underdeveloped. J.K. Rowling‘s (the only screenwriter credited) script tries to do too much at once. So all the surprising reveals and shocking twists amount to nothing because it exhausts itself with all the expositional build up. This is especially true for Leta Lestrange and Credence, who get confusing back stories so that it could lead to a twist. And it carries on until the end when a seemingly bigger twist doesn’t get the reaction it deserves.
The numerous subplots only add to the poor transitions and horrible pacing. A heartbroken Jacob tries to find Queenie moments after she runs off to Paris to find Tina. So Jacob joins Newt in hopes of finding her and help him get back together with Tina. However, Jacob’s desperation is short-lived as he is far more concerned with helping Newt say the right words. And then the scene moves on to something else entirely with something that only disrupts the tone and fluidity.
But despite some of the major issues that plague the film, 1920s wizarding Paris looks wondrous. The set designs and costumes bring back the history of a forgotten age. All of that helps make the film worth looking at. And that is something the film needs when it is lacking a worthwhile story.
Still, it’s not nearly enough to make it entertaining. Though it is great to look at, it only means that the film is style over substance. The flashy spellcasting looks great, especially during the climactic battle in the third act. Director David Yates knows this Harry Potter universe very well. So a large-scale magic fight sequence is almost obligatory for these films. And he uses Stuart Craig‘s set designs effectively. Yet, all of that excitement is wasted because the film exhausted itself with all the convolutions and tangled webs.
For what it is worth, there are some performances to look at. Jude Law plays a young and intelligent Dumbledore, whose penchant for mischief has a knack for getting him into trouble. Depp is fine as Grindelwald, whose seductive words can cast a spell on the strongest of wizards and witches. Neither of them get the ample time they deserve. However, they make do with the material they have. Still, I would have preferred to have seen Colin Farrell say that he was Grindelwald not Perceval Graves and not morph into Depp.
The problem with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is that it acts more like filler than anything else. It introduces far too many subplots that have nothing to do with each other and does nothing to help expand the Harry Potter universe. There is far too much build up and very little payoff.
Even though there are some glimmers of a good film in this, all of the narrative flaws, awful pacing, and confusing transitions make this filler installment something that you can skip. Let’s just hope the rest of Fantastic Beasts sequels aren’t like this one.