Harry Potter fans, rejoice! The second installment of the Fantastic Beasts series is finally here, and while the story doesn’t necessarily expand much from the first film, it is still a fun Wizarding World experience. Most of the film’s run time is dedicated to introducing a slew of new characters and their backgrounds rather than focusing on moving the story forward. The last half hour should have been the first half of the film to drive the plot, as that’s really when the story development beings. However, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is visually beautiful to watch, brings in a lot of Harry Potter lore, and ends with a great twist.
This film seems to be a fifty-fifty toss up for audiences and critics: you will either love it or hate it. There are merits to both perspectives, as Fantastic Beasts is a fun ride that allows you to reenter the beloved Wizarding World. At this point in the series, it appears that the franchise is leaning more towards these films being Harry Potter prequels that are simply filling in gaps from the original movies/books rather than creating a new, standalone plot. I’m hoping that Fantastic Beasts will become its own entity again in the upcoming sequels. It’s nice to finally meet characters that we have all heard of and to see new wizarding communities, but there needs to be a distinct separation between Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter if the former is to survive the test of time.
The best way that Fantastic Beasts can come out of its predecessor’s shadow is to utilize central villain Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) as much as possible. First, no matter how you feel about him personally, Depp is the perfect choice to play Grindelwald. His performance in this film is great and adds a new level of what it means to be a revolutionary in the Wizarding World. Second, Grindelwald is a very interesting character and isn’t just the typical villain. The reason for his current conquest is rooted much deeper than the typical power struggle. He is a very different villain than Harry Potter’s Voldemort and will be a wonderful foil for the younger Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). While there’s a lot of history with Grindelwald still to be played out, this film doesn’t warrant the subtitle The Crimes of Grindelwald. He actually doesn’t commit many crimes this time around, and it would have been more fitting for the film to be called something like The Return of Grindelwald or The Rise of Grindelwald.
Another reason why Grindelwald needs to be heavily featured in the Fantastic Beasts films is that it is unrealistic to rely on main character Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to carry the story of all five films. Newt is an unwilling hero who doesn’t want to be involved in anything that is going on. He accidently got caught up in the action of the first film and is practically forced to make a move in this one, even though he really doesn’t do much. Newt’s strengths are much different than Harry Potter’s, and the two characters need to be treated differently. Switching the focus to the Grindelwald-Dumbledore relationship would be much more interesting, especially when the two actors are excellent. I was a little unsure of Jude Law being cast as a younger Dumbledore, but he knocks his brief appearances out of the park. He perfectly embodies Dumbledore and is one of the highlights of the film. Considering how much Dumbledore means to the characters and the viewers, he needs to be featured a lot more in the upcoming films.
The biggest issue with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the plot holes in the script. Characters come and go as they please with no rhyme or reason, with some up and disappearing randomly. There isn’t much of a story to follow, and most of the script focuses on trying to convince both the viewers and the characters that Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) is a member of the infamous Lastrange family. Credence’s development throughout the series should prove to be extremely interesting and significant in the way that it will impact the future of the Wizarding World. There are also too many background characters introduced, which turns the franchise from a group of four battling against two villains to a large ensemble film. We lose the wonderful scenes with Newt, Tina (Katherine Waterston), Queenie (Alison Sudol), and Jacob (Dan Fogler) all together, but any combination of them on screen together shows their great chemistry. The four of them are a great group, just like Harry Potter had the perfect central trio, and need to be more of a focus. However, the additions of Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) and Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner), Newt’s older brother, are also great. These two were cast well and definitely help the story grow.
The visuals are the best part of the film and are as breathtaking as ever. All of the Wizarding World films have done a great job of making magic look real, but this film seems like it hit the next level. Everything is so bright, colorful, and vibrant. The CGI is pretty flawless and brings magic to life. The set design in every scene is also fantastic and so full of detail. The one thing missing from the film was more creatures. The series is called Fantastic Beasts, but there were way fewer creatures in this one compared to the first film. However, Niffler and Pickett manage to continue to steal scenes and prove that they are excellent creations, and the addition of several adorable baby Nifflers needs to get more attention going forward.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald will surely excite most Wizarding World fans. It is enjoyable to watch if you can sit back, turn off your brain, and enjoy the show. If you start to think too much about what is happening, then you will probably end up not having a good time. Hopefully the next Fantastic Beasts film will be more plot-driven and separate itself as its own entity again. Personally, any trip to the Wizarding World is an adventure to me, and I’m not giving up on loving Fantastic Beasts.
Image Courtesy of Wikipedia