I love the moment the lights dim, the curtain widens and the movie starts. Going to the cinema is one of life's great activities and should be enjoyed as much as possible.
Published November 21st 2018
Moderately entertaining and where to find it
The tenth film in the Harry Potter universe has just hit the screen, only seventeen years after the first movie arrived in 2001. The previous film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, for which this is a direct sequel, was released in 2016. It was a prequel to the Harry Potter films, taking place in the 1920s, long before the boy who lived was born.
The film is directed by David Yates, who came on board as director of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in 2007, the fifth film in the series, and he has stayed on board through the final four Harry Potter films, and both of the Fantastic Beasts movies. Yates has been a competent director for the Potter universe and generally handles the visuals very well. However, the series under Yates lost some of the sense of wonder (or dare I say, magic?) of the earlier work, although he did turn out more consistent films than the first four films in the series.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald sits as the second in what appears to be a long line of films, with three more films listed on the Internet Movie Database as announced, with Yates set to direct them all. Most of the cast from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them are back, with Eddie Redmayne leading the series as Newt, a softly spoken lover of all creatures. Katherine Waterston plays love interest and ministry Auror, Tina. Zoe Kravitz as Newt's old friend Leta Lestrange, and Ezra Miller returns as Credence Barebone, a powerful wizard in search of who he is.
The cast is joined by two very famous actors playing two very big roles. Johnny Depp plays the evil Gellert Grindelwald, whilst Jude Law becomes the third actor to play Albus Dumbledore, this time a much younger and more energetic character.
Prequels to very successful movies seldom find great success, and whilst the first Fantastic Beasts movie did find box office success, it wasn't a thoroughly engaging movie, despite a number of great visuals and plenty of cute creatures. Unfortunately, the second film also doesn't provide the level of entertainment or engagement that its 134 minute runtime requires. The story is trapped under the weight of setting up future sequels, whilst also being hamstrung by trying to shoehorn as many references to the Harry Potter movies/books as possible.
The plot is muddled by having too many characters, none of whom are really the main focus. Newt is prominent but has little to do and minimal story arc. Grindelwald is all political speeches and lurking in shadows, and whilst Depp is quite good in the role (Depp rarely plays a bad guy, but has proven his ability to be really nasty in 2015's Black Mass), Grindelwald fails to be compelling as a villain in the way Voldemort was before him. Dumbledore has little to do, with the most notable thing about his appearance being the film dispensing with hinting at Dumbledore's relationship with Grindelwald, and being much more open about it. The fantastic beasts are simply plot devices in this one, offering a few visuals but little else. And then there's the main focus of every character's motivations during the film, except Credence Barebone, who doesn't really have a lot to do. If they're going to delay the Flash movie because of Miller's involvement in these films, they better give him more to do in the next one.
In the end, you're left wondering where your time went, as you don't feel as though you have progressed very far in the story. Because we're not really following any one character, the film's plot feels much too complicated for what the film is. It reminded me much of the later Pirates of the Caribbean movies, which became so needlessly complicated, that it became exhausting to watch.
The Harry Potter universe worked well when focusing on Harry, Ron and Hermione. We learnt about the world through Harry, and it was a world that suited a high school setting with high school aged characters. Now it's an adult affair and the magic feels a little stale, and not very fantastic.
Thanks dear bearded one, a good review as always. As a Harry Potter fan I’ll reserve my judgment until I see this one. I enjoyed Fantastic Beasts, so hoping this one is not as muddled as you say, cheers Marie