Fantastic Beasts – The Crimes of Grindelwald – 2018

Director David Yates
Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Carmen Ejogo, Claudia Kim, William Nadylam, Kevin Guthrie, Jude Law, Johnny Depp

The first film in this second Potterverse series was a pleasant surprise. There were several characters as intelligent as Hermoine, none as dumb as Ron. The makers pf the first film took good advantage of the fact that we didn’t know many of the characters. Learning about them is as much fun as the depth of the world inside of a magician’s suitcase.

At a certain point, the magic of meeting new people and seeing new creatures that fill the world hidden from Muggles becomes too frequent to be amazing. This comes at a time so early in this building story that we’re left with two options.

One is to explore the magic. This works well when we’re seeing the creatures both ordinary and extraordinary within the realm of Redmane’s Newt The glory of the quirks and irregularities of these beasts feels fun and fresh as it did the first time. If only more time were taken with the plot.

What we’re seeing is not a story in an of itself. It’s just the 2nd of 5 parts. It’s at this point, the magic becomes a little less. It all becomes just the piecing of plot parts in place, waiting for the viewer to see how they fit together in the end.

The acting is fine, but limited. The characters of Tina, Queenie and Jacob are pushed forward in motion of misunderstandings that are used to excused the motivations of their actions. It feels a waste to see their characters pulled around like pieces on a chess board, almost paralyzed by their emotions, as though logic left them in the dust.

To this end, Credence (Miller) is even less of a character than a MacGuffin. Who are his parents? What does this mean? Why is Grindelwald (Depp) insistent on making the confused youngster come to him uninvited?

The main reason is so we can have the villain wait in place for the ending to come to him. It happens in many average films these days, like Justice League, Suicide Squad and the last X-Men film. The result is less a story than a holding pattern.

I am not going to be able to comment on Depp’s contribution. He doesn’t have much to say or to do but let us know he’s onto something big.

I have to say the disappointment of this film is relative to expectation. It is pleasant to look at, inasmuch as the creatures and the accompanying magic performed by and around them. Redmayne gives a stammering performance that only ever unfolds when he’s allowed to interact with the beasts, wherever he finds them.

As nice as the effects are, the editing is almost comically choppy at times. There is absolutely no flow to the story after the halfway point. It’s like the filmmakers know where the story goes, but are not interested in showing you how to get there.

Some of the scenes that stand out involve Newt’s sanctuary and the library at the French Ministry of Magic.

The wonder of these scenes are countered by the Ministry of Magic’s agents acting like compromised g-men much of the time. Anyone who accepts the job for the Ministry are likely working against the good guys. While the good guys aren’t really interested in helping out.

One could find a reason to like this film a bit more. I am relatively sure that I will enjoy it more when watching it with the other parts immediately following some lazy Sunday, years down th line. As it stands.for just one film, it’s just a little disappointing.

(*** out of *****)

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