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FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD gets 5.5/10 Deathly hollow


Directed by David Yates

Starring Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp, Katherine Waterston, Jude Law

5.5/10

The second in the Fantastic Beasts series, The Crimes of Grindelwald once again gives us a view of the magical world decades before the birth of Harry Potter. As Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) escapes, the magic world is thrown into disarray. The Ministry of Magic attempts to recruit Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to pursue the creature that the powerful felon seeks for his plans of conquest, but wary of the Ministry, Newt instead accepts his old teacher Dumbldore’s (Jude Law) offer of aid instead. Soon Newt is teamed up with old friends, Jacob (Dan Foggler), Tina (Katherine Waterston), and Queenie (Alison Sudol) as they scour a 1920’s magical Paris in an attempt to find Credence (Ezra Miller) and to thwart Grindelwald’s attempt to cause a war within the wizarding world.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a film that mistakes copious exposition for storytelling, and admittedly gorgeous computer effects for world building. By itself the film has little real coherent story, instead focusing on the meta plot of the overall franchise. This it does with a rather clumsy slight of hand. Instead of letting the plot grow organically, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald propels itself forward with large information dumps before launching into an action sequence. It reveals such info with a great flourish, although in such an obvious manner that we can often see the card peeking out from the magician’s sleeve. However it is equally capable of jettisoning these info dumps as a mere red herring a few seconds later, leaving audiences unsure of why they should care about such a flimsily crafted world.

That inconsistency seems to be systemic of an overall issue with the film. Character motivation is shaky, and occasionally they act in ways that are utterly baffling beyond adding drama to the plot. Even when they do manage to create some interesting dynamic, mere moment later characters will be back to cavorting in a pantomime fashion. Grindelwald is especially prone to this, and Depp fails to inject the character with much life beyond makeup and costuming.

As a result The Crimes of Grindelwald can’t really stand by itself, but it was never meant to. This is a bridging film, the middle piece in a series of five films. The big bombshells it does drop will certainly generate dramatic tension in the future, and there is a lot to be sifted through by those steeped in the lore of the Potterverse. As such it does its job, building for the bigger story to tell, but it does it in a rather ponderous, albiet richly appointed, way.

It is good to see the return of Redmayne, Waterston, Fogler, and Sudol to the wizarding world, even if they are not given the best vehicle to work in. Redmayne has really solidified his portrayal of Newt, and it’s one not without a certain aspect of charm. Ezra Miller gets more of a stretch this outing as the troubled vessel of the Obscurus, and Credence gets to grow somewhat as a character. We also get our first glimpses at a young Dumbledore, portrayed by Jude Law (Dumblelaw?), as he works his way into the narrative, heading towards the inevitable confrontation mentioned in the Harry Potter series.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is another beautiful visit to a lushly realised world, that ultimately leaves you somewhat empty. Despite its grand demeanor and melodramatic plot, there really isn’t a lot here. Serviceable, but merely in terms of advancing the overall series, rather than a magical experience in its own right.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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