Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald Review
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald is a labyrinthine land of confusion that swaps aforementioned roving “beasts” with far too many knotted and exhausting plot beats. The only “crime” here is dragging viewers through a most trivial midway adventure between more important films for over two hours. So many innocent deaths to prove a point, so much running in fairy-dust-specked circles like a hyperactive Niffler. Characters waltz in-and-out of importance and consequence until storylines become muddled into an undefinable sludge that abruptly concludes with an eradication colored by ice and fire. It’s cheap, massively manipulative, and entirely powered by an egotistical realization that Harry Potter fans will praise whatever Newt’s second round brings.
After destroying half of New York City, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) finds himself banned from international travel. His only hope at reinstated freedoms is to enlist alongside brother Theseus (Callum Turner) as an Auror. Newt refuses to “take sides,” but that may not be a luxury with disruptor Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) free. Worse still, Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) has survived and could ensure Grindelwald’s plot to eradicate all those who oppose his magic-first revolution succeeds.
And so, Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists Newt to track Credence in Paris, France and prevent such a catastrophe, which drags Jacob (Dan Fogler), Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Tina (Katherine Waterston) into the fray. You know, because Queenie enchants Jacob so he’ll finally participate in no-maj/wizard matrimony and hey, Tina’s also in Paris because, you know, Ministry things.
Sorry, how could I forget Leta Lestrange’s (Zoë Kravitz) backstory as an outcast Hogwarts student? Or Yusuf Kama’s (William Nadylam) interruption while hunting Credence? Or even Nagini (Claudia Kim) as the shapeshifting exotic partner of Credence who can turn into a serpent?
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them managed (more successfully) to walk a delicate tightrope between character build-ups and Newt’s collapsable wizarding zoo that The Crimes Of Grindelwald attempts to repeat with far less steady balance. Seventy-thousand characters vie for your attention. Locations frustratingly leap from Paris’ hidden wizard pathways to Hogwarts then back to Paris or Newt’s suitcase sanctuary. Every scene’s impacted by some heavy loss of life or grand revelation or new “twist” that alters someone’s name for the upteenth dizzying time.
Quite frankly, the title “beasts” aren’t that “fantastic” the second time around, either. Bowtruckle returns and earns his screentime as a green twiggy scamp. Then there’s….Chinese Cat Dragon Fish Tail? Buckethead Swamp Thing? Tiny Charizard But Totally Not Charizard? Animations are vibrant and splashy, but less sharpened here. As the title suggests, David Yates’ sequel focuses on the grimier, darker reality of Grindelwald’s nefarious deeds and as such, creatures are pushed to the backburner.
Outside of majestic Cheshire megacats that can travel a thousand miles in one day, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald is a trying slog that fumbles emotional drivers and can’t decide which arc is most important. Maybe it’s Newt and Tina’s romantic misunderstanding? Or not, because the “boyfriend” of Tina’s never makes an appearance.
Maybe it’s Leta’s place in wizarding heroics after being harassed at Hogwarts that allows her to – oh, OK. Maybe not. Dumbledore’s inclusion is an excuse to visit Hogwarts, Credence follows a most confusing road that ultimately ends in a grand – unearned – reveal, and Grindelwald’s a dead-eyed villain whose successful Ministry condemnation is never in question. Even happenstance occurrences like Queenie and Jacob’s arrival in London – AT THAT VERY MOMENT – is scoffable at best. Every action is more consequential than the last, resulting in a script of “Sure, Why Not!” reasoning thrown together without sharpened effect.
That’s not to say Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald fails to impress via cinematography that scales over the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry or cobblestone streets dusted in Niffler’s golden detective powder. J.K. Rowling’s 1920’s universe is still period savvy, but dingy lensing detracts from the atmosphere. An opening aerial flying-horse-and-buggy chase is more chaotic than exciting, while other nighttime sequences suffer under the drabness of shadows. A later-half Alchemist’s showdown pits fiery orange flames against electric-blue flickers that form a raging hawk-like bird – over Paris. But none of it’s enough to distract from the utter gluttony that stuffs audiences full of plot morsels to the point of a bellyache. And of course, performances are lost in the chaos as well.
It’s just too much morose convolution, not enough wizarding world fascination, and NOWHERE NEAR AN APPROPRIATE AMOUNT OF SCREENTIME FOR THOSE BABY NIFFLERS (YOU COWARDS). Yate’s slightest of sequels drags franchise sustainability out as much as possible and runs insufferably too long. If playing “Who’s My Mama?” with Credence while twenty other focal characters attempt to conquer their personal demons sounds like your jam, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald will still cast a spell of nap-time sleepiness over the most excited Harry Potter fans. At least my boy Niffler escapes as the unscathed scene-stealer he’s proven himself to be.
What? A sliver – er, golden – lining is still important even in the most up-in-smoke affairs, right?
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is two-plus overstuffed hours worth of too many characters fighting for screen time that no enchantment can salvage.