Let me start off this review of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald by stating I am not a huge Potterhead. I have seen all of the Harry Potter movies, as well as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but I can’t dive into the intricacies of each character, or speak toward the books. With that in mind, I enjoyed the first Fantastic Beasts more than most of the Harry Potter films. For this reason, I was looking forward to Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, but just two movies into the new series, writer J.K. Rowling has already lost her way.
One of the most charming aspects of the original Fantastic Beasts was Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his interactions with Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and the various beasts featured in the film. While Newt’s back and fairly unchanged from the first film, everything else feels off. The beasts take a back seat in favor of a more Harry Potter-like plot line, but it almost feels as though we’re missing a large portion of the story between the first film and The Crimes of Grindelwald.
When the film gets going, over a year has passed since the end of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. However, Newt is begging the Ministry for international travel privileges. Despite the fact that he played an integral part in saving New York City and capturing Grindelwald, he’s somehow being blamed for most of the destruction. How things changed from saving the city to being blamed for its destruction is a mystery. Likewise, Tina Goldstein feels almost like a different character. The way she acts toward Newt feels very foreign from what we learned of the character in the first film.
In addition to the strange missing pieces between films, there’s a lot of plot convenience going on in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Characters show up in the same location for a variety of random reasons that don’t always make sense. At the end of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Jacob Kowalski has lost his memory (sorry Muggle!) but there are hints that his relationship with Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) has not come to an end. When we catch up with them in The Crimes of Grindelwald, they feel like very different characters, and end up joining Newt randomly.
Lazy plot devices aside, character development is severely lacking throughout The Crimes of Grindelwald. Character motivations are questioned repeatedly as characters from the original film don’t act themselves and new characters have very little back story for the audience to invest in. This causes what should be emotional moments to fall flat. Even the small amount of character development we do see is thrown away in the blink of an eye when characters make questionable decisions.
Any fans that were concerned about Jude Law taking on the role of young Albus Dumbledore can rest easy. Law has done his homework and it shows. There are times when you can easily see glimpses of Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore in Law’s performance. While this is still a younger and less experienced take on the character, hints toward the wiser, older Dumbledore are very clear. While Johnny Depp plays a satisfactory rival in Grindelwald, it feels more like Donald Trump mixed with a stereotypical Harry Potter villain than anything truly unique. Perhaps this was an intentional play by Rowling, but it results in the titular villain feeling somewhat bland.
There’s a lot of disappointment in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, but there’s still room to salvage the series in the inevitable third installment. As it stands, the nearly two and a half hour Crimes of Grindelwald feels disjointed and unsatisfying. The movie isn’t terrible, but only a diehard Harry Potter fan could potentially find anything more than a average addition to the franchise here.
About Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Synopsis: In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans of raising pure-blood wizards to rule over all non-magical beings, Albus Dumbledore enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided world.
Director: David Yates
Writer: J.K. Rowling
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler
Runtime: 2 Hours, 14 Minutes