Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald isn’t quite the disaster it sounded it was going to be after finally watching it, but soon into watching it you can definitely see why this weak sequel doesn’t bode well for this probably consistently weak spin-off franchise.
Whether you rewatched the first film or not to get a primer on this one, it feels like the continuity doesn’t even matter. Rowling has written a sort of fresh slate for most of the situation, writing out issues in what feels like the interest of pacing and throwing characters back into the fray because they are just needed.
Of the returning characters, it remains to be Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander carrying the others, while the other returning cast seem very very secondary this time around. And they don’t make great character choices. In fact sometimes they make the absolute worst, completely out of character choices.
The titular Grindelwald sorta pulls away all the focus in this film. Gay wizard Hitler is in full force here, and ignoring the fact it’s Johnny Depp (better than he’s been in the majority of things he’s done recently), you do get the attempt to make him at least different in ways from Voldermort.
He’s looking for his own way to get the purebloods in control and once again that calls for Ezra Miller’s Constance who has just...survived the previous film. And for some reason he’s rolling with Nagini? As in, Asian lady who turns into Nagini for...no reason at all. She’s set up to carry into the sequels, but it seems very inconsequential that she’s here.
Most choices in this film are inconsequential. Jude Law’s Dumbledore has so so much promise it’s one of the few silver linings, but himself, Hogwarts, and even young Professor McGonagall feels very much for fanservice more than anything. And even then it’s annoying some picky fans because timelines just don’t make sense.
But McGonagall isn’t where that confusion begins or ends with timelines. Rowling has lost touch and fails once again as a screenwriter. She might be one of the better modern mystery writers, but goddamn she still hasn’t nailed what a movie is constructed. It’s even worse that she hasn’t quite nailed her lore either.
Crimes of Grindelwald can so very easily turn into one big fanboy criticism and believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg here. So much can be said of Rowling’s script and how each subsequent Harry Potter work after the initial books and films really fails to capture the magic, but ignoring all that...the films are just basically serviceable.
David Yates can make these movies in his sleep by now and it certainly still feels like that. The first Fantastic Beasts managed to capture a different time and slant on magic and have all the wonder and adventure, but Crimes of Grindelwald feels more of the same and somehow also a lot less. It’s safe, and while it still hasn’t quite nailed the tonal problems like the first (Grindelwald’s men and women do what Michael Myers cannot and kill a baby off screen), it all just feels so middle of the road once again the world of film has something that’s not special at all in its hands. All the set pieces are bland and lack escalation or stakes, and the music is so forgettable it feels like a crime for a Potter-related flick.
Crimes of Grindelwald is too occupied with trying to blow your mind and once again set up bigger better movies (just give me young Dumbledore doing brilliant things, movie) that it fails at what it should be doing in the movie you have here. That’s the problem compared to Harry Potter, each of those were contained mysteries with the propelling force for a series, whereas Fantastic Beasts throws few mysteries over these five films with barely any character, threat, or excitement to make it all worthwhile.
Rowling really needs to step up her writing game and understand more of why Potter works and this doesn’t. Pulling random shit out of the air doesn’t make for interesting storytelling, it feels like midichlorians are supposed to explain the force. Plot twists aren’t fun in the way they’re being pulled off here. Characters coming in aren’t gonna feel worth it if they are wasted.
Weak, lacking in logic, still unsure what kind of story it is, and still employing Johnny Depp, Grindelwald would be deserving of bigger more passionate rants if it were criminally bad, but it’s not. The crime here is that once again, it’s a film that’s barely okay, and not fantastic.
And also because Nicholas Flamel is in the movie and isn’t so much wasted as he is a complete eyebrow raise of why he even is in this movie.
Oh well, at least he’s not secretly a snake, or an Asian lady who turns into one.
That would be stupid.