As Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald entered into the second half of its 134 minute running time, I found myself internally asking “What exactly is going on?”. And what was possibly even worse is that I didn’t entirely care that I wasn’t being enthralled by what should’ve been an entertaining go-around.
I saw all eight Harry Potter films, and adored them (mostly), and was even relatively entertained by the original Fantastic Beasts feature – 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – so I certainly entered into Crimes of Grindelwald with relative enthusiasm; even the controversial casting of Johnny Depp wasn’t enough to deter me.
But as I sat there trying to piece together all the nuggets of exposition David Yates’ fantastical sequel dropped throughout, I simply became more and more confused, and I don’t know if that’s the greatest response to a film that’s part of a series now ten(!) films deep.
Picking up where the original Fantastic Beasts finished – this is indeed a film for the initiated, and newcomers best catch up to speed – self-proclaimed magizoologist Newt Scamander (a coy Eddie Redmayne) is back in his London surroundings, not long enjoying the company of his magical creature companions before the particularly non-magical Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) arrives without a hint of warning.
Having had his mind erased by bubbly love interest Queenie (Alison Sudol, one of the film’s truly captivating performers) in an effort to shield him from the magical attack that tail-ended the first film, Jacob quite easily falls back into the magical swing of things and accompanies dear Newt on another supposedly fantastical adventure to track down Credence (Ezra Miller, all brood and none of his usual charisma).
Credence, you see, is wanted by essentially the whole Grindelwald ensemble, including Grindelwald (Depp) himself, because he’s someone very special, it’s just that none of us (not even Credence) are privy to why, so the film offers up a lot of scenes where the downtrodden boy asks “Do you know who I am?”; the film ends with an answer of sorts, but it’s not entirely satisfying.
Given that there are another three movies planned, perhaps it was intentional on the part of writer J.K. Rowling’s part to have Grindelwald be a filler movie of sorts so that there’s more to digest in the proposed sequels. The film can’t help but feel like an overlong session of foreplay leading to a climactic round of one-on-one between Grindelwald and Dumbledore (the legendary wizard played as a young professor by the still-impossibly handsome Jude Law) that sadly won’t materialise for another trio of films; and anyone hoping for some confirmation on Dumbledore’s sexual preference will feel dissatisfied with Grindelwald‘s limp treatment.
As for Grindelwald the character, Depp is doing his usual shtick. He’s wide-eyed and just that bit eccentric, and if the actor hadn’t run that on-screen persona into the ground (or, you know, been accused of abuse against ex-wife Amber Heard) then maybe it wouldn’t seem so uneventful when his character’s supposed grand moment is a mere speech about how those that don’t practice magic can’t be trusted; Colin Farrell, who played the form of Grindelwald for the majority of the first film, is seriously missing here.
It wasn’t my intention at all to be a grinch when gathering my thoughts on Crimes of Grindelwald, but nothing remotely eventful stood out about the film as a whole. Whilst I can rave about how ridiculously adorable the creature creations are, and how the aforementioned Alison Sudol and Zoe Kravitz (a damaged witch whose backstory here is more emotionally investing than much of the other plot points) are particular highlights in the capable cast – and I know that Harry Potter fans will turn out to this film in droves so negative words against it will essentially be nought – select ingredients aren’t enough for this cinematic diner to want to feast on this particular Beast. Let’s hope the threequel proves a more enticing dish.
About Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans of raising pure-blood wizards to rule over all non-magical beings, Albus Dumbledore enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided world.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (M) is screening in Australian theatres from November 15th 2018.