Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Review
Less of the fantastic beasts and unfortunately less of the buzz
Packed to the brim with characters, subplots and wizardry folklore, the Fantastic Beasts sequel hasn't got many beasts and just isn't that fantastic.The second part of the prequel franchise to the Harry Potter world heads off in a slightly different direction to the first instalment. It’s a film that’s packed to the brim with characters and subplots, wizardry folklore and the occasional fantastic beast.
Without giving away too much from the first film The Crimes of Grindelwald picks up as the titular character, Grindelwald (the bleached blonde Johnny Depp), on the eve of his trial, makes a spectacular - if a bit blurry - escape. Meanwhile, our lovable and fumbling hero from the first film, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), is still trying to undo the damage caused by his escapades stateside.
The magic and awe mustered up for Fantastic Beasts has gone off the boil.
Making matters more prickly for him is Professor Albus Dumbledore (this time a much younger version, played by Jude Law) who tasks Newt with locating the one person who has the potential to take Grindelwald down, before Grindelwald gets to him himself.
Along the way, Newton meets up with Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), an Auror for the Ministry of Magic who he has soft spot for. There a number of subplots and side stories, not to mention the plethora of new characters that are introduced along the way. Newt is given a bit more of a back story with the introduction of his brother, Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner), and his fiancé, Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz). But there are a few familiar faces, like Dan Fogler who makes a return as the fun-loving Jacob Kowalski, as does his somewhat naive sweetheart, Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol).
Director David Yates is at the wheel once more and will be for the next three films in this franchise. Despite being fully versed in this world though, the magic and awe he mustered up for Fantastic Beasts has gone off the boil. The first film set everything up and introduced us to all the key players, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that the second film would get to the good stuff a bit quicker; instead it feels like it’s treading old ground.
That’s not to say that it’s not an enjoyable watch because there are some stunning set pieces and clearly a lot of work has gone into conjuring up this magical world of witches and wizards. The attention to all the small details alone is something that could be discussed at length. These are the moments that make up for the duller parts of the film without a doubt. Newt’s London basement is definitely one that stands out along with the scene in the French Ministry of Magic’s archives - even better in 3D I expect.
The real downside to the film is that there is just too much crammed in and not enough time or space given to fully flesh each nugget out. The script for the film, of course written by J.K Rowling, plays out like it would be better suited to a book, or at least a mini series. It’s one of those films where only the big, impressive scenes remain memorable, oh and maybe one or two of the beasties.
The first film set everything up, so you’d be forgiven for thinking the second would get to the good stuff a bit quicker; instead it feels like it’s treading old ground.
Like the jam packed narrative, many of the characters aren’t given the opportunity to really go to town in their parts. Newt is very much the same shy and awkward character he was from when we were first introduced to him although this time he seems a bit more sure of himself, more confident. Jude Law’s Dumbledore was slightly underwhelming and any suggestion of his sexuality was merely hinted at with coquettish looks rather than an outright declaration.
The characters that you wanted to see more of like Nagini (Claudia Kim) were kept on the periphery, but hopefully they’ll get more screen time over the next three movies. Johnny Depp seems perfect for the role of Grindelward, inasmuch the same way as he was for Jack Sparrow, although perhaps with less gusto and more of ‘just getting the job done’ kind of attitude.
All in all, The Crimes of Grindelwald fails to build on or even continue with the momentum started in Fantastic Beasts. However, it’s not a complete loss and it still has a lot of charm woven into it. There are many more nods to the Potterverse which I’m sure fans will appreciate along with the flashback scenes to Hogwarts. It undeniably looks lavish with some great blockbuster scenes but hopefully the next film will pick up where Fantastic Beasts left off.
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