Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Ravenous Harry Potter fans will likely feast in the often visually stunning Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, as it’s made just for them. The rest of us casual fans or disinterested parties will either be bored or patient while we wait for the credits to eventually roll.
Watching this Fantastic Beasts, the second in the pre-Potter cinematic universe, it’s clear that the film is designed for die hard Potterheads. The movie drops sprinkles of mentions of characters, locations, and historical incidents, which only serve as a poke in the rib to those dedicated to J. K. Rowlings’s books. Unfortunately, the parade of cameos and dropped names is so forced it wears thin after some time. For example, we don’t need to see a close-up of the inside of a desk at Hogwarts more than once, let alone three times. Just get on with the movie already.
The plot of The Crimes of Grindelwald picks up right after 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is barred by the Ministry of Magic from international travel after his misadventures in the first film. Meanwhile, Grindenwald (Johnny Depp) has escaped from the Ministry and is trying to join forces with Credence (Ezra Miller) as he discovers his true lineage and magical superpowers. Jacob (Dan Fogler) is suddenly in London to chase after Queenie (Alison Sudol), who’s chasing after her sister Tina (Katherine Waterston). Newt is chasing after Tina too, but Tina is chasing after a mysterious man (Cornell John). Did I mention that this takes them all to Paris? It’s all just a bit much. With so many characters and so much exposition, you might get the impression that the plot is full of action and romance, but it’s not. The effect is closer to reading a glossary of characters and their connections, rather than a swift and pulpy action novel.
Despite the rigor of the plot, many of the visuals in the film are quite striking. Between The Nutcracker and the Four Realms and The Crimes of Grindelwald, CGI has hit its stride when it comes to flying smoke monsters. Though we will soon be at risk of oversaturation of these ethereal beasts, their current usage is both unsettling and beautiful. The fully-realized wizarding world within this film is impeccably designed and executed, though some overly-directed camera movements make these sets and creatures difficult to truly take in.
Much like Attack of the Clones and The Empire Strikes Back, The Crimes of Grindelwald is in the middle of a series of franchise films. We have a rough idea of where the series is heading, considering that this is all a prequel, which means there’s not as much tension put into the film’s outcome. While we know who will ultimately survive, it still feels like a placeholder. It’s very possible in these filler films to craft a sense of urgency and wonder, but The Crimes of Grindelwald just falls flat.