Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler
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…sort of fun at the start, kinda agreeable at the end, but will suck your whimsy dry for most of its runtime.
It must be a double-edged sword being author JK Rowling. On the one hand you’ve become fabulously rich and beloved the world over for creating the Harry Potter series of books. On the other hand, fans can’t seem to let that “Wizarding World” go, and demand more and more from you. Or perhaps it’s more that Rowling herself can’t move on from her most famous creation and keeps returning to the well long after it’s gone dry. Whatever the reasons behind it, films like Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald are doing neither the property, nor the audience beyond absurdly hardcore fans, any favours.
The first movie in this (apparently) five-part series was 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, an amiable enough story, which added a bunch of world-threatening nonsense right at the end, presumably to give audiences a reason to turn up to the next one. Crimes feels much closer in tone to the latter Harry Potter movies, with Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) playing a Voldemort analogue who wants to take over 1927 Paris (and then the world) by covering it with acres of black silk or some bloody nonsense.
The problem with Grindelwald (both the movie and the character) is that we don’t particularly care. See, the Harry Potter books and movies slowly ratcheted up the tension from ‘being the new kid at magic school’ to ‘evil has come to kill us all’ over seven books and eight movies. We got to know these goofy, lovable kids and eventually grew to care about their shenanigans, however absurd. Who the hell is there to care about in Fantastic Beasts? Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is an agreeable dork with no real personality beyond ‘awkward/likes animals’. Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) is all wide eyes and an awkward love interest for Newt, but isn’t exactly memorable; and much touted “new” addition, young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) is fine when he’s onscreen but is saddled, constantly, with being unable to reveal his secrets because magic.
Add to this the film’s bloated middle section – a long, joyless slog which contains one of the most ridiculous shaggy dog stories that goes absolutely bloody nowhere – and you’re left with a movie that’s sort of fun at the start, kinda agreeable at the end, but will suck your whimsy dry for most of its runtime.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is guilty of that most egregious of sins, feeling like a filler episode. Maybe JK Rowling has a cunning plan to make this series sing, but with lethargic entries like this it’s hard to imagine turning up three more times to find out what it is.