Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald sports magical special effects and strong performances from Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Johnny Depp and Ezra Miller. The problem is that the film is magically uninspired. Now in theaters.
I confess that I haven’t read the Harry Potter books, nor seen the films that they are based on. So, it was a bit of trepidation that I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them two years ago. I was pleasantly surprised by the level of imagination that went into the production, and of the story of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne).
Its sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald picks up where the last film left off. Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp has been incarcerated for magical crimes against the state. After an easy escape, he sets about to ensnare Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) who struggles to learn the identity of his mother.
Meanwhile, Newt Scamander feverishly works to avoid his older brother, Theseus (Callum Turner) as they try to bring him into the fold where they can keep a better eye on his whereabouts. Newt is tasked with finding Credence which leads him to Paris. It is here that he catches up with an old flame, someone whose eyes remind him of a salamander’s. Joining Newt on this adventure is his friend Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and Queenie (Allison Sudol).
Throughout the latter half of the first act and the start of the second act, we get some of the magic that made the first Fantastic Beasts so magical. When you take the beasts away, or make them less important to the story then it takes away from the charm and sophistication.
This isn’t to say that Credence Barebone’s story isn’t important. In spite of Ezra Miller’s strong performance as a brooding force, the character seems like an afterthought in his own movie, despite the fact that it is his story and that’s because it is being filtered through the patina of Gellert Grindelwald. Depp’s performance as Grindelwald is both magical and scary. His danger is made of confidence that his predictions will come true.
Eddie Redmayne’s performance is strong. He enjoys the low-key part as if it was a stage play. But, this is also a love story for him, a well-intentioned aspect of the story, but ultimately superfluous. Audiences will be familiar with Albus Dumbledore, a professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Even with a few, yet pivotal scenes throughout the film, Jude Law exudes a commanding, yet quiescent performance, the highlight of this film.
Where David Yates’s direction in the first Fantastic Beasts was assured, here is seems more preoccupied with getting Credence’s exposition out of the way. In a way, J. K. Rowling’s script feels very rushed and at some points incoherent. Her characters are strong, but their motivations were not. Some of that has to do with the slipshod editing done by Mark Day (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Ex Machina).
The visual effects are some of the best I’ve seen outside of a Marvel film this year. The depth of the images lends itself quite well to 3D.
The performances aside, the story really has no teeth and nothing is really resolved. The dangerous scenes are stunning to look at and yet there was no associated tension to go along with those scenes. As the third act started, I couldn’t help but reflect on The Empire Strikes Back. The Crimes of Grindelwald has a darker tone to it, fitting in with Credence’s story and Grindelwald’s nefarious plans. Yet, similar feeling characters and situations between the two films started creeping into my consciousness. It was uncanny and bothersome at the same time.
The crime of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is that it feels uninspired.
Now in theaters, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is rated PG-13.