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Film Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

21 November 18 words: Adam Ridgley

The second prequel in JK Rowling’s wizarding world fails to capture the magic...

Director: David Yates

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Johnny Depp

Running time:

Expecting the Fantastic Beasts series to capture the imagination to the extent of the cultural juggernaut that was Harry Potter was always an unfair ask. Despite this, 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them established a solid foundation for Wizarding World building. The Crimes of Grindelwald however finds itself bogged down in franchise detail.

We begin six months on from the events of the previous film, with the notorious wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) being transported from the U.S to Europe when dark wizard shenanigans lead to him escaping to Paris. There he concocts a plan to turn Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), into a superweapon. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Magic’s Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner) and his fiancée Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz) are looking to dispose of the boy before this; whilst a returning Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), dispatches his former student Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to look for Credence. Newt however is more interested in reconnecting with love interest, American Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), who is also conveniently looking for Credence. Newt is also joined by a returning Jacob Kowaski (Dan Fogler), the American evolutionary cousin of the Go-Compare man who is, looking for his on again off again partner Queenie Goldstein (Alision Sudol).

The plot is essentially a magical game of Where’s Wally; I wouldn’t be surprised if the working title for the film was Fantastic Credence and Where to Find Him. For a movie that focuses much of its plot on characters looking for other characters, it’s unfortunate that other than a somewhat intriguing third act twist, it never truly amounts to us finding anything engaging about them.

A stepping stone story in a film series that cannot quite decide what it wants to be

Contrived connections to the Harry Potter series feel like an unbreakable cure for The Crimes of Grindelwald. Whilst Jude Law’s Dumbledore shines, and Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander is endearingly awkward as ever, director David Yates struggles to develop intrigue into the new cast of characters, often hoping to supplement this with thrown in franchise players. Harry Potter always had its main trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione to anchor the heart of the story. The Crimes of Grindelwald overstuffs with subplots, limiting the ability for relationships to grow and develop.

This presents the identity crisis that much of this series faces. Anyone hoping that Fantastic beasts will explore the characters we know in greater depth will also be disappointed. Dumbledore’s homosexuality is only ever implied, but never outright stated. Whilst it is nice to explore the background of a pre-transformation Nagini (Claudia Kim), it can however feel necessary when the supposed romantic centre of the plot allows the relationship between Jacob and Queenie to get about an awkward 10 minutes of overstuffed screen time.

The series is at its strongest when it is acting as an expansion of the wizarding world, rather than a Harry Potter prequel. The beastly hijinks of Magizooligist Newt Scamander take a backseat to sequel bait the story of Grindelwald and Dumbledore. If the series moving forward needs to establish its role of whether it wishes to be a true prequel or a delve into, he wider depths of the wizarding world.

Ultimately The Crimes of Grindelwald is a stepping stone story in a film series that cannot quite decide what it wants to be. Although a third act twist does leave you feeling slightly more intrigued by the future of this series, our latest exploration into the wizarding world is an extraordinary take on a universe that is anything but.  If you’re looking for an in-depth prequel, you will be disappointed. If you’re looking for a quality stand alone story, you will be disappointed. If you’re after a nice afternoon of easy viewing, with the odd cutesy monster and the odd magic trick spectacle, The Crimes of Grindelwald may just be worth your time.

Did you know? Johnny Depp signed on without reading a script. He wanted to be a part of the series because he is a self-proclaimed massive fan of the series.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is screening at Broadway Cinema until Thursday 29 November

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