Dan's Review: "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald" enjoyable, yet complicated
Nov 16, 2018 10:23AM
By Dan Metcalf
Katherine Waterston and Eddie Redmayne in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - © 2018 Warner Bros.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Warner Bros.)
Rated PG-13 for some sequences of fantasy action.
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, William Nadylam, Kevin Guthrie, Jude Law, Toby Regbo, Johnny Depp, Jamie Campbell Bower, Carmen Ejogo, Poppy Corby-Tuech, Brontis Jodorowsky, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, David Sakurai, Isaura Barbé-Brown, Victoria Yeates, Jessica Williams, Derek Riddell, Wolf Roth and Cornell John.
Written by J.K. Rowling.
Directed by David Yates.
The “Wizarding World” created by J. K. Rowling forges ahead – or forges backward as a series of prequels to the Harry Potter saga. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald is the second of these prequels, focusing on the story of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his study of magical creatures.
When we left the Scamander’s story in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, he had just helped capture Gellert Grindlewald (Johnny Depp) as the dark wizard attempted to subjugate non-magic humans to wizard rule. During extradition from New York to London, Grindlewald escapes and heads off to Paris, seeking an “obscuris” named Credence (Ezra Miller), whom many thought had died in the New York incident. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Magic has revoked Newt’s travel privileges, in fear that he may become an ally to Credence, who might then be exploited by Grindlewald. Newt’s brother Theseus (Callum Turner) works for the ministry, along with Newt’s former girlfriend Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz), who is now engaged to marry Theseus. At the same time, the ministry is equally interested in tracking the movements of Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), Newt’s former dark arts instructor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Dumbledore is the former (very close) friend of Grindlewald and refuses to fight him, despite Gellert’s plan to eliminate Albus, the most powerful wizard in the world. Dumbledore secretly recruits Newt to go to Paris and try to turn Credence from joining Grindlewald. Newt obliges and travels in secret with his old pal Jacob Kowalksi (Dan Fogler) a non-magical “muggle” whose memory has been restored by his true love Queenie (Alison Sudol), a “legilimens” (mind reader). Queenie’s sister Tina (Katherine Waterston) is an American “auror” (magical government agent) also searching for Credence. Tina is led to a circus where Credence is hiding and protecting a new mate named Nagini (Claudia Kim), shape-shifting being that alternates between human and a snake (she also carries a blood curse that will permanently transform her into a snake). All parties continue their search for Credence until a final battle where many hidden truths are revealed and the scene is set for an even bigger battle between Dumbledore and Grindlewald.
That’s where the movie ends; a setup for the next film in the series (I hear there will be five total).
So, where do I start? I could point out the incredibly complicated story that is the basis of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald, with ample twists and turns that require a lot (and I do mean a LOT) of exposition. It’s as if J. K. Rowling tried to write a book INSIDE a movie instead of the other way around. Seriously, if I had to recite the origins of Leta Lestrange or Credence, I would have to revert to one of those “so-and-so begat so-and-so” chapters of scripture. One of the things I liked about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was the way it was untethered to a book that is always “better than the movie.” In this case, perhaps a book that covered all that backstory might have been a worthy forerunner to a movie and helped fans fill in the tedious blanks.
I might also point to the lack of a central protagonist since Crimes of Grindlewald oscillates between a movie about Newt and a movie about young Dumbledore. There are also a few complicated and underdeveloped romantic relationships in the movie, most notably between Newt and Tina, Newt and Leta, and Jacob and Queenie.
All these complications distract from an otherwise impressive cinematic effort to create an incredible world of magic set in the early 20th Century. The cast is talented enough and the special effects are exquisite to match any of the Harry Potter films. In the end, I think Crimes of Grindlewald will eventually fit very well into Rowling’s Wizarding World, but we’ll have to wait to see where the story takes us, at least for now.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald Trailer