The wizarding world of Harry Potter is something that deserves to be explored. Every single inch of it from one corner to the next. But if Fantastic Beasts The Crimes Of Grindelwald opens with a thrilling jailbreak sequence involving flying horse carriages and wizards on brooms. The wild chase sequence seems to set up the tone for the overall film that has Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) asking Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to find Credence (Ezra Miller) before Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) does. But the highly anticipated does a poor job. It seems to be so focused on setting up for future sequels it forgets to tell its own story.
Things are already trying for Newt who is barred from international travel after what he did in New York in Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. So being asked to find Credence is just another problem that Newt will have to overcome. Luckily he has the help of his friends, Jacob (Dan Fogler) and Queenie (Alison Sudol), and Tina (Katherine Waterston). As well as some new allies like his brother Thesusus Scamander (Callum Turner) and his fiance Leta LeStrange (Zoe Kravitz)
However, the film treats all them with such disregard because it’s far too concern with setting up the franchise. Some of the new allies are treated as exposition devices and nothing more. Subplots spread the film far too thin. It tries to come off as great storytelling by planting the seeds for a sequel and layering it with interesting subplots. But it comes off as convoluted because it is so busy thinking about what lies ahead instead of being its own film. None of the subplots have anything to do with each other. So it looks more like five films are going on at once. This film works so hard and wastes so much time building to an exciting twist that when it does come, we are just exhausted from trying to process and unravel the convoluted story.
Everything that was so lovely and charming about the first is missing in Crimes Of Grindelwald. The character interactions are non-existent, and thus the chemistry goes up in smoke. Jacob and Queenie, apparently the best pair of characters from Where To Find Them, spend most of their time apart because of a lover’s quarrel. Despite Jacob’s desperate attempt to find his beloved when they first split, he focuses his attention on repairing Newt and Tina’s relationship – they are in a bit of a quarrel themselves due to a grammatical error in a gossip column.
Narrative problems aside, Crimes Of Grindelwald suffers from a lot of pacing issues. Because of the number of subplots that are jostling for screen time, everything seems to be rushed. A captured Newt imprisoned in an underground tunnel appears above ground in Paris in no time at all. But we don’t see if the cast and spell or just ran out. He’s just there. With no explanation. Then the film cuts from intense action to a seemingly gloomy mood when we see Grindelwald seduce more followers with his dangerous rhetoric. It then switches over to Jacob giving Newt advice on what to say to Tina. At the same time, Jacob expresses no concern over trying to find Queenie. That desperate need to see her is just gone.
All of these subplots are loosely connected. Actually, it’s better to say that they don’t have anything to do with each other, at all. And it doesn’t give us a reason to care whether or not these conflicts are resolved.
Furthermore, Crimes Of Grindelwald seemingly adds new characters from out of thin air. It feels as though the film is just making things up as it goes without any prior care to the preceding events. Its as if there are no repercussions to what’s going on. So it keeps throwing in new twists and turns in hopes that it sticks. But it doesn’t work. In fact, it makes it more difficult to follow the story. It becomes so much of a problem that by the time the credits roll you are still trying to figure things out.
But never let it be said that David Yates doesn’t know how to shoot a film. He uses all of the set pieces effectively. Hogwarts looks as grand and beautiful as ever. While 1920s Paris takes us back to a time long forgotten. It’s almost hard to believe that there is a whole other world going on without the No-Maj (people with no magical abilities) knowing that it exists. This different wizardry world is a beautiful wonder to look at.
And there are some bright spots. Namely, Jude Law who is charming as a much younger Albus Dumbledore, who is still is every bit as mischievous as he is intelligent. But he is also willing to be supportive during times of need. Even Depp is good with the minimal story that he gets. Although much of that comes from the third climatic act as he preaches his dark, seductive gospel to his followers. Still, I think Colin Ferrell makes for a much better and charismatic villain.
But for a film called Fantastic Beasts, there seem to be very few beasts in the film. If there are any, it just exists to be filler and not much else. Some beasts remind us where the film came from. But for the most part, the franchise seems to forget where it came from and is focused on the impending war. Not sure if it makes any sense to continue on with the Fantastic Beasts title if they have very little to do with the actual film. But there is some hope as the film does make a few nods to Fantastic Beasts native to Asian countries. Whether or not we will see them remains to be seen.
I’ve never been a massive fan of the Harry Potter franchise, but I will acknowledge the appeal it has. It has terrific and fully developed characters existing in a fascinating space between man and wizard. So to go from all of that mythology in one franchise to a film that is far more concerned with building towards the future and ignoring its own characters is severally disappointing.