Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is an over-stuffed Part 2 of a series that is more worried about building up future installments than it is focusing on what's happening now. Eddie Redmayne's Newt Scamander is still quirky, fun and worthy of leading the franchise, but the supporting characters definitely lessen the film's effect, while Yates and Rowling attempt to intertwine too many sub-stories and references to the HP series. For once, Johnny Depp isn't the film's biggest problem.
Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them director David Yates returns to writer J.K. Rowling‘s Wizarding World for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which is a film that crumbles under its own weight, struggling to connect all of its intertwined stories with the never-ending Harry Potter lore. This is no longer a fun series about a magizoologist by the name of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and instead another “darkness is rising/coming” to the innocent world of muggles.
With Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Yates and Rowling managed to recapture the light and fun tone of the earlier Harry Potter films, while also hinting at darker times. The film acted mostly as a grand introduction to Newt, one of the most likable characters of the Wizarding World.
It also introduced us to a string of supporting characters, including friends, family and acquaintances. The first Fantastic Beasts did this in a way that was mostly successful, slowly seeding in the backstory of Credence (Ezra Miller) and where he fits into all of this magical nonsense. Rewatching the film had me mostly engaged with Newt’s random adventures, as he attempted to collect his various beasts and try to make the rest of the world understand them and more importantly, himself.
Now, The Crimes of Grindelwald switches gears swiftly as it focuses on the darkness and destruction attempted to be brought on by Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), a powerful wizard with an interesting backstory.
Depp plays Grindelwald with just enough mystery and suspense to make him feel like a character not to be taken lightly. He’s not exactly frightening, but he’s incredibly smart and you can tell that he’s planning something much greater than what is being shown.
I’ll admit that I was sad at the reveal of Depp as Grindelwald in the last film, but he manages to restrain himself from going completely overboard. He gives the character a disgusting vibe that I couldn’t shake and for that I will continue to see what he does with the character.
Unfortunately, the rest of the cast is caught in a game of musical chairs, stealing scenes at random as they all try to squeeze in their five minutes of fame. Newt’s love interest Tina (Katherine Waterston) spends a majority of the film sniffing out clues about who Credence really is. She doesn’t really get far and never is given more than two minutes to reconnect with Newt and further their relationship.
Jacob (Dan Fogler) and Queenie’s (Alison Sudol) relationship is briefly glossed over as we find out that Jacob hasn’t lost his memory and is suddenly afraid to marry Queenie. The two share minimal moments and are only really used to drive home the end of the film, which is unorganized and tries so desperately to build up the eventual Part 3.
Most might not like what I have to say next, but the bulk of The Crimes of Grindelwald is about Credence’s inner-rage and lack of direction. Grindelwald is merely a mover of pawns, while Ezra Miller‘s Credence takes the main stage. Thank god Miller got a haircut, because now the nagging character is at least tolerable on a visual level. As far as a written character, I must say that Credence is the least interesting Wizarding World character of them all. His story lacks excitement and his whole motivation is based on the unknown. They reveal a little bit more about his past and instead of gasping at the information as it was being revealed, I sighed because I realized that we will have to sit through at least one more two-and-a-half-hour movie that’s mostly focused on his oh-so-boring life.
Why Yates and Rowling have chosen to spend most of the film on Credence and not Newt is beyond me. Redmayne is constantly bringing a charming, yet awkward, yet still engaging performance to the screen with Newt and he’s continuously making him a character that you want to learn more about, yet the film keeps backtracking to Credence.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is an over-stuffed experience that very much feels like a middle film. So much of the plot is reliant on what came before it and fixated on where we are going next, with very little of the film dealing with its own contained issues. I hate watching movies that never feel full or complete on their own right.
Director David Yates shoots the film with plenty of dark and dreary scenery that is obsessed with grays, blues and blacks. Almost every other scene takes place in the rain and an odd amount of the earlier footage feels disjointed when compared to the later material. Some opening close up shots on characters during dialogue moments feel like they were edited by a completely different team. The editing in general feels like a rushed mess, with character appearing and disappearing at complete random. I scratched my head at a few moments, because nothing feels fluid or complete.
Perhaps the original cut of the film was too long for general audiences? Or perhaps Yates and Rowling simply don’t know how to kill time when they know most of the “good stuff” is going to be in the next installment.
All I know is that Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald feels very much like a product marketed for mass appeal that is less worried about telling something as it is selling something.
For the first time in the entire franchise I am starting to feel like Rowling and Yates need to slow down and remember why they are making these films to begin with. The beasts, the magic, the fun characters and the memorable moments are all slowly starting to fall at the waist side as WB’s marketing machine gobbles up the ability to sell more and more tickets (and wands).