Thursday, November 15, 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

The sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them spends most of the first half-hour getting the previous film's major characters together once again. Mixing in a younger Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and introducing, but failing to develop, Johnny Depp as the villain Grindelwald, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald then attempts to steal a bit of the magic from the Harry Potter films.

While it provides more imaginative creatures and amusing awkwardness from Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), the film is littered with problems including an awkwardly-structured plot, a ponderous opening act, a disinterest to do anything more than hint at the core relationship that fuels the plot, and a lack of any sort of conclusion.

Much like the previous film, The Crimes of Grindelwald offers fun, but mostly forgettable, entertainment. There are some nice additions here, including Law as the younger Dumbledore and Zoƫ Kravitz as a woman with feelings for both the Scamander brothers, but the script fails to make the best use of the talent at hand.

Die-hard Harry Potter fans may enjoy the movie more than most, but the film lacks the more approachable characters from that franchise and a legitimate threat in Voldermort. We're told quite a bit about Grindelwald, but see little of the character in action (at least after his pre-credit sequences escape from prison). Instead the character's main purpose is to boast about plans and... well, that's pretty much it. The choice to bring back Credence (Ezra Miller), a character mercifully killed off in the last film (or so we had hoped), and make him central to the plot certainly doesn't help. Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol return, but are completely superfluous to the plot. Katherine Waterston makes out slightly better, although Tina's rogue agent turn is never explored nor explained. And the choice to work in Nagini feels like fan service run amok.

Like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Crimes of Grindelwald is underwhelming. The script doesn't even offer a satisfactory conclusion as the movie is more of a set-up for additional sequels than a standalone film. It might as well have been called Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Part 1. Newt is far less of a central character this time around offering a more muddled structure to the tale that lacks a true protagonist (or even a true antagonist as Grindelwald's desires and plans are underdeveloped). Even with these issues, there are moments, characters, and creatures to enjoy (including flashbacks to Newt's time at Hogwarts). I just wish there was a bit more magic to be found.

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