“Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald” has the magic, but lacks the polish

JK Rowling’s latest entry into her “Wizarding World” franchise hit theaters a few weeks back and immediately the reviews were mixed at best. I saw “Fantastic Beasts” upon its debut in theaters two years ago and was mildly disappointed. However, after a subsequent viewing, it has moved up to the prestigious ranking of “fine”. So going into “Crimes of Grindelwald”, my expectations were minimal.

The story picks up a few months after the previous film with Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) still under arrest within the Magical Congress of the United States of America and being transferred to British Ministry of Magic’s custody. During the prisoner transfer, Grindelwald is aided in his escape by a disguised MACUSA employee. Four months after that, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is requesting the ban on his international travel be lifted but the Ministry only will allow it if he agrees to become an Auror (magic federal agent, essentially). He refuses as he feels their opinion on magical creatures and anything unknown is to shoot first and ask questions later. Also there’s something about his brother’s fiancé being in love with him from childhood in there too, which makes Tina (Katherine Waterson) upset because she’s crushing on him pretty hard. Jacob (Dan Folger) and Queenie (Alison Sudol) are back as well and she’s very unhappy at the societal opposition to wizards and NoMags (non-magical people or Muggles as they’re known in Britain) marrying. There are a couple more storylines to follow as well, but they’re somewhat spoilers.

It’s a lot to unpack.

Here’s what’s good about it: Jude Law as Dumbledore. Didn’t know I wanted to see a young Dumbledore, but I have and it was delightful. There are a couple magical creatures that are cool, but for a film called “Fantastic Beasts”, there sure weren’t enough of them. The magic is also pretty exciting but we’re getting further and further away from the magic we learned from the books and original films and now it’s just turning into “we can do anything because we’re wizards”. Which is fine, but it goes against the lore Rowling established in the HP books/films.

Here’s what’s not so good about it: the plot. What is the plot? Who is the main character? Why are there SO MANY storylines to follow? Who is the audience supposed to root for/who is their proxy in the story? Why can’t Dumbledore EVER do ANYTHING himself? Since when is Newt Sherlock Holmes? Why is Nagini in this story? Is Ezra Miller (plays Credence Barebone) a good actor (jury is still out)? Why is it over two hours long?

“You see, it rhymes. Like poetry.”

This is Rowling second screenplay ever and I think the franchise is starting to suffer from what I call “George Lucas Syndrome”. Going into the “Star Wars” prequels, Lucas essentially had carte blanche to do whatever he wanted because the films were sure to be big hits. And the result was that no one ever told him “no”. So we ended up with three not great movies that most fans revile, but still made buckets of money. Enter JK Rowling. Seven phenomenal books, several world-building supplemental books and stories and eight blockbuster films later, they decide they should return to the world and make more movies. She looks through her notes and says, “I’ve got a textbook I made up with an author who could do stuff. What do you think?” And everyone in charge saw dollar and pound signs in their eyes and said “heck yes”. She then decides she can not only make one movie, but FIVE movies based on, essentially, a life sciences textbook she made up for the Hogwarts curriculum. And no one said, “Are you sure…?”

While I am critical, I didn’t hate the movie. It was still exciting and beautiful to watch. But I was bored. And don’t really know what I’m supposed to take from it. But, just like “Star Wars”, I’ll never be mad to see another movie in the Harry Potter universe. Even if it’s a big “meh”. Because magic is cool. Accio popcorn.





Rating: 2 out of 5 Snack Packs

Lincoln L. Hayes is an actor and filmmaker living in NYC. He recently discussed this film on his podcast with actress and writer Rachel Riendeau. Listen at http://wtfareyouwatching.libsyn.com

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