While sitting through Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the second installment in the Harry Potter prequel universe, it made me wonder how most of the 2018 blockbuster sequels have been pretty divisive, to say the least. Perhaps not everyone was exactly participating this, and it shows that reason when everything isn’t magic.
What’s the Story: Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is enlisted by his old Hogwarts teacher Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) in an attempt to take down the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) after escaping custody and Newt and his group of friends must stop him from possibly taking over the world.
Do I describe myself as a Potterhead? No, but I love all the Harry Potter movies and it’s been a part of my childhood just like everyone else’s. The first installment, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), was pretty mixed with both critics and fans alike. I thought it was an alright prequel, even though I haven’t re-watched it since it came out. And it was the first movie set in the Wizarding World to win an Oscar (Costume Design). Wasn’t particularly excited about The Crimes of Grindelwald, but I was pretty positive this could be an improvement over its predecessor. Honest truth, I left the theater disheartened.
Before I dig deep into why this let me down, there’s are some positive attributes that are worth mentioning. For starters, Redmayne still gives a good performance as Newt. He’s a delightful young former Hogwarts student who’s still likable. Still never get why people don’t like this character. Law was a pretty perfect choice to portray a young Dumbledore, but the problem is that he isn’t in it that much. Also, some of the visual effects are very gorgeous, for the most part. And James Newton Howard’s score is about on par with his music from the previous film.
So besides those pros, this sequel is a mess to sit through. Director David Yates’ been around this franchise since 2007 and there’s something about his direction with Fantastic Beasts series that doesn’t flow naturally when telling the story for the audience to be entertained by. A new director could’ve put in a better style since Yates only made four good movies from Harry Potter and the previous film that’s subpar. It’s a nice-looking film, but nothing else.
The blame should be toward J.K. Rowling’s convoluted screenplay. Her writing might work fair better with the Harry Potter novels rather than the uninteresting story with very little stakes found. The number of characters and subplots jumping from location-to-location that are featured in here serve no real purpose outside Newt. One of the elements that I loved about the first movie was the relationship between Jacob (Dan Fogler) and Queenie (Alison Sudol), and the development for them just flew out the door in here, which is frustrating. And this surprisingly made me very bored, and that never happens in the other Harry Potter movies. Moments, where it’s just characters talking in exposition, made me squirm in my sit for the duration of 134 minutes wondering what the hell is even going on?
Probably the best idea would be to hire Steve Kloves, who wrote seven out of the eight adaptations from the books since he would probably know how to write better characters and a story. The characters aren’t given much material to work with.
Ezra Miller’s Credence Barebone is once again a weak character that feels underdeveloped when our heroes are trying to find him while searching for his birth mother in Paris.
The “fantastic beasts” elements where it showcases all the creatures aren’t very utilized much in this as much as the first film. The designs of them are fairly decent, although there isn’t one that stood out.
Can’t say the action wasn’t even that memorable. There isn’t a lot of it, and when it eventually happens, nothing was all that thrilling even with magic involved. The only sequence that was actually entertaining and intense was the opening chase with Grindelwald’s jailbreak that started the movie in a promising fashion.
Let’s address the elephant in the room to actually talk about Depp. The decision to still cast him as Grindelwald was met with backlash, and I was one of the people that were against this performance. But taking out his allegations aside and concentrate on his performance, this was a miscast role that doesn’t all that worth talking about much so distracting. Sure, Grindelwald is made to be a dangerous wizard and is good at persuading people into joining his side, but other than that, there was nothing menacing about this villain.
Maybe if this spent more time focusing on the actual story and not to set up the third movie while tying everything to the later films, this would have been better. The fact that this is getting three more movies is already tiresome trying to figure out how the next movies are gonna play out. Because when it ended, I was like, “What? That’s it?!”
Fans will probably gonna be satisfied regardless of what critics say, and fans might feel the opposite. The Crimes of Grindelwald just felt like an uneven and bloated attempt to milk money out of our pockets. We’re two movies in, and there’s nowhere to go but down. Sad to say, this is the worst movie to come from the Harry Potter universe and was bland throughout. The franchise is will likely reach Hobbit territory of unnecessary. Fantastic, it is not.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is an overstuffed disappointment of a sequel that comes nowhere to be an improvement over its predecessor when it’s thrown together with bad storytelling and lack of magic found. Grade: D+