The latest installment in the Potterverse and the second film in the Fantastic Beasts series is here, and it certainly is… a movie.
Enchanting, magical, another hit in the extended Harry Potter franchise are all things that this latest installment, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, is not. Not only does it not live up to its predecessor, it falls entirely short of even being a coherent film. J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world has been an enthralling staple in popular culture for almost two decades and the related films have always done very well at either adapting her novels or telling a story of its own. But Crimes of Grindelwald brings to focus some glaring chinks in the armor of the “Potterverse.”
Helmed by longtime series director David Yates and written by Rowling, the film attempts to tell the story that its predecessor merely hinted at, and completely falls flat on its face. Rowling’s screenplay is nearly incomprehensible and a chore to try to follow, and the resulting film is a bland and bleak tonal disaster that can’t focus on one set of characters for more than 30 seconds. And when it does, it’s for drearily drawn out scenes of convoluted and unnecessary exposition.
In Rowling’s books, whenever Harry tries to talk to Dumbledore he is almost never able to get a straight answer out of him. That’s how I felt watching this movie. Confused, lied to, and left with the feeling that what I really wanted to know was never divulged. Speaking of Dumbledore, he’s in this one, barely. Jude Law plays a young version of the legendary wizard during his days of teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts in what amounts to little more than an extended cameo. While Law’s portrayal of Dumbledore is one of the few bright spots in the film, the way in which his character is used is not. If Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy showed us how to properly handle a legendary character in a minor role on their Star Wars prequel Rogue One, Rowling and Yates give a prime example of how not to. Law’s character is used sparingly and seems to only pop up for a scene or two just to remind us that he is in fact in the movie. His complex relationship with the titular antagonist is only barely mentioned and overall adds very little to the finished product.
The rest of the cast seems totally lost throughout the film. Eddie Redmayne’s charm as Newt Scamander is nowhere to be found, Zoë Kravitz as Leta Lestrange seems bored out of her mind, and the returning cast of Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski and Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein are back because… they were in the last one? When the film isn’t wasting time on completely unnecessary characters, it instead decides to waste time on useless plot points like a suggested love triangle or a truly pointless origin story for (and I’m not kidding) Voldemort’s pet snake Nagini.
Johnny Depp miraculously is not one of the film’s many problems. His portrayal of the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald is just fine. Nothing to write home about, but in a film full of things to hate, Depp is not one of them. A film dedicated to the complex history between his and Jude Law’s characters would have been much more preferable than this sequel whose only job is to remind us that there’s a third film on the way.
The only reason to see Crimes of The Grindelwald is if you’re a diehard “Potterhead” that can’t help themselves. Otherwise, steer clear and save your $15.