‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald’ Review: A Broken Sequel That No Magic Can Fix

Disclaimer: This article discusses plot points that has been shown in the trailers and TV spots. However, if you want to go into the movie completely blank, a spoiler alert is in effect!

The ‘Harry Potter’ franchise was and is still revered as one of the best book-to-film adaptations. And even if you haven’t read J.K. Rowling’s writing, the movies did a great job of capturing that awe, wonder and depth of the wizarding world. So, after a brief hiatus, it was rather comforting to know that she’s bringing us back some more magic in the form of the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ series. However, we’re two movies in and Newt Scamander’s journey has started to lose its charm.

‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ starts shortly after the events of its predecessor and takes no time to establish what’s at stake. But then the movie forgets all about it.

Credits: Warner Bros. Pictures

After opening the movie with a bang, ‘Fantastic Beasts’ establishes through Newt that Credence is not only alive and well, but also the number one target. Why? Because Grindelwald is out to get him for his own evil needs. As suggested by the trailers, a young Albus Dumbledore gives a reluctant Newt to do the same task for him because he can’t move against Grindelwald.

Credits: Warner Bros. Pictures

Now, that’s a pretty simple plot to follow. However, the movie makes it abundantly difficult by introducing multiple side missions. Tina has been reinstated as an Auror and is searching for Credence on her own. There’s a romantic sub-plot between Queenie and Jacob that keeps bringing the movie to a screeching halt. Credence is looking for his mother, while the fan-servicey cameo, Nagini tags along. And on top of that, we’ve Leta Lestrange and Yusuf Kama looking for a form of emotional closure.

J.K. Rowling’s shoddy screenwriting, coupled with David Yates’ robotic direction, turns what is supposed to be a mad dash for the ownership of Credence, into a boring, wand-twirling slog.

Credits: Warner Bros. Pictures

What was great about the ‘Harry Potter’ series is that the movies felt self-contained and only slightly hinted at the larger narrative. And although the war was between Dumbledore and Voldemort, Harry’s involvement felt like a key factor. In the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ series, Rowling desperately wants us to accept Newt as the new Harry Potter. However, if he’s taken out of the equation between Grindelwald, Dumbledore and Credence, it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

Credits: Warner Bros. Pictures

The awkward lack of agency in the story isn’t helped by the editing (Mark Day) and Yates’ direction. While the plot inherently has a sense of urgency, the makers are more interested in lingering around in the streets of London and Paris, instead of establishing what motivates each of these characters. That’s why when we reach the triumphant climax, where everyone happens to be at the same place at the same time, it feels like the entire mid-section of the movie was unnecessary.

So, is there nothing to like about the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ 2? Well, of course there is, thanks to the casting director Fiona Weir, cinematographer Philippe Rousselot, production designer Stuart Craig, costume designer Colleen Atwood and the entire special effects team.

Credits: Warner Bros. Pictures

While Newt’s character suffers due to the writing, Eddie Redmayne does a bang on job of making him likable with his Sherlock Holmes-ish quirks. Johnny Depp absolutely owns the role of Grindelwald by giving a subdued performance that will give you some chills. And Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore makes quite the impression as he exudes hints of the brilliance of his older version that most of us are familiar with.

Credits: Warner Bros. Pictures

Given how ‘Fantastic Beasts’ is set in the 20’s, the set designing and the costume designing team does a marvelous job of keeping us rooted in that timeline. It won’t be a surprise if they’re nominated for an Oscar. And, although the beasts have become a sideshow, they’re designed very intricately and look like they’re physically present in the same space as the actors.

So, in conclusion, if you want to switch off your minds and look at a bunch of well-done CGI, this is absolutely the kind of movie you’re looking for. However, if you’re looking for fantastic beasts or the crimes of Grindelwald (as the title suggests), you’re not going to find any of that in here.

Cover Image Source: Warner Bros. Pictures

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