Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Director: David Yates
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Claudia Kim, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Johnny Depp, and Jude Law
“You’ve never met a monster you couldn’t love.” This sentiment, proclaimed during a titular scene in the continuing wizard saga “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”, is the perfect description for the film and its author/screenwriter J.K. Rowling. This sequel is a monster, a rapturous beast that devours scenery without much rhyme or reason with its abundance of ideas. You can also feel its creators undying admiration and love for the material and characters. Regardless of how unwieldy and overstuffed the film becomes with its shifting plot elements, drifting characters, and magical creatures, it’s clear Ms. Rowling has generated one monster of a movie.
Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) trains, collects, and cares for magical creatures of varying size and magical specialty. Newt, when we last ventured with him, had just thwarted a plan from a powerful wizard, Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), who was trying to engage war and chaos between the non-magic world and the magic world. Grindelwald, while being transferred from the United States to Europe to stand trial for his crimes, escapes and reignites his plot to form a world ruled by pure blood wizards. It is up to Newt and his pals to fight this evil force once again.
Director David Yates continues to mold his aesthetic over every frame of the film, creating an environment that clearly exists within the structure Mr. Yates has already established during his run with the Harry Potter franchise. With its 1920’s style, deep black and dreary gray visual palette, and flashy special effects laden action, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is a fun film to look at, especially when it unleashes all manner of beasts all over the screen. One scene involving a monster that can only be described as a Chinese New Year dragon, provides the fierce yet cute factor that has come to describe most monsters within the wizarding world established by J.K. Rowling.
While the film is constantly trying to connect viewers to the sentiments felt during the Harry Potter films, we are provided a visit back to Hogwarts and the inclusion of an old friend Albus Dumbledore played by Jude Law, the journey here feels more convoluted and purposefully mysterious. The questions asked during the first film are not any closer to being answered, instead we are provided with more questions and more mysteries needing to be solved. The awe and wonder of the magic spells and enchanted beings typically found within this world feels more ornamental here, a backdrop that will step in when needed to introduce a new character subplot or fill a quick narrative plot hole. The excitement and tension of spell casting, with wands at the ready, now feels like the simple mumbling and whispering of words.
However, what hurts this film most is its need to expand the universe and engage in more material to elongate this story. Grindelwald, introduced in the final moments of the first film, is slowly rising to power with new followers and new plans that center on a powerful character with an unknown origin. Romantic storylines take greater shape with the primary characters, centering on love lost and love discovered. New characters are introduced and are featured heavily within the main story of the film, adding complications to themes associated with the past and directly influencing matters of the future. And within all of this is the story of Newt and his fantastic beasts; it’s a lot to handle and direct in one film. You can sense early that more sequels will be needed to complete the story loops. It makes it hard to find perspective with a piece of work if you are only given the frame to work with, the vessel that would transport characters from one solution to another is never present with the film.
“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” still has some great characters that shine when given the opportunity. Eddie Redmayne is awkward and indecisive in very charming ways and Katherine Waterston does a great job of playing off Redmayne’s strangeness as the the head strong love interest. Johnny Depp plays the villain here, and while there is nothing wrong with the performance, the character of Grindelwald just never feels threatening in the composition of everything happening.
David Yates and J.K. Rowling clearly understand that this franchise will need more time, more characters, and more fantastic beasts to find its closure. And while, when it’s all said and done, we may look back and see how this film piece fits into the whole puzzle, currently it’s easier to find the crimes than the fantastic with this film.
2.50 out of 5.00