Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Review)

FANTASTIC BEASTS 2

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Carmen Ejogo, Claudia Kim, William Nadylam, Kevin Guthrie, Jude Law, Johnny Depp 
Certificate: 12A
Run Time: 134 mins

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the hotly anticipated sequel to the 2016 spin-off to the Harry Potter series, that now looks set on becoming a five-feature franchise. After the first film established a strong set of new characters in a new environment and the titular Grindelwald teased, a second film always has more scope in that it can have more fun with the material as it doesn’t need to rely on introducing new concepts. This film follows Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander once again, who has been tasked by Jude Law’s younger portrayal of Dumbledore to locate Credence, an Obscurus who Grindelwald took a keen interest to in the first film. Johnny Depp’s dark wizard, Gellert Grindelwald, is simultaneously is growing stronger and recruiting new followers whilst also trying to locate Credence for his personal gain. Director David Yates again returns for this film after helming the first film and the last four Harry Potter films, as do much of the cast and crew.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a crushing disappointment and is the worst film in the Wizarding World thus far, by quite a sizeable distance. Whilst Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them did wonders in character development and a gripping storyline, this film fails to deliver on these promises hinted in the first film and makes for a particularly frustrating experience. The chief problems of the film are J.K. Rowling’s bewildering retconning of narrative events and characters and too much focus on setting up future installments which results in a sore lack of energy through stretches of the film. Considering the talent involved, the result is very surprising and this is the first film that David Yates has directed where he seems to be on autopilot throughout. Yates is such a talented director who doesn’t always recieve fair credit but even the visuals of the film lack that arresting quality of his previous filmography and at times, are a little ugly.

This is a film that strangely seems to primarily, be concerned with family trees and relations. As many of the characters that are important to the central plotline are new to the franchise, as an audience, there isn’t much to latch on to in terms of character emotion. I don’t mean this lightly when I say that the third act of the film felt like a Big Brother sketch. Characters also resort to blatant and lengthy exposition multiple times in the film.

Without going into spoilers, for die-hard Harry Potter fans, this film makes some strange decisions narratively. Whilst it’s always good to throw in some twists or take an unexpected diversion to what the audience are expecting, Rowling threatens to undermine the rich world she has created by retconning the main timeline of the series and trying to find ways to milk more plot points out of events. The ending to this film, which is a big reveal, I found to be very disappointing and out of character. Characters who have previously featured in either the first film or the Harry Potter series are treated rather disrespectfully by Rowling and make for jarring character arcs in the film.

There are some redeeming qualities to this film and I have overall graded it a ‘Good’. Firstly, Redmayne’s Newt remains a likeable and oddball lead, even if his character felt seemingly insignificant to the wider issues at hand. Jude Law’s Dumbledore is fantastic, who retains Michael Gambon’s twinkly personality and Irish lilt. Zoe Kravitz is also very convincing, even if her character is rather ill-treated on the page. Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald also fares well and Depp does the best what he can do with the material given and there are some interesting stabs at development that interrogate the wider politics of this world.

Overall, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a step-down in quality from the previous film and is disappointing in most respects. Rowling’s storyline has dug itself into a deep hole that at the moment, looks like will be difficult to dig itself out of. Serious changes will be needed in the next installment if this franchise has any chance of rivalling Harry Potter, or it threatens further undoing of this once promising series. That said, the film does have some interesting moments and some characters recieve good development. It’s certainly not a ‘bad’ film, but it represents a moment in the franchise where some important creative decisions will need to be made going forward.

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

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