Archives by Day

June 2024

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Release Date: Nov. 16, 2018


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

Movie Review - 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald'

by Adam Pavlacka on Nov. 17, 2018 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

The second installment of the "Fantastic Beasts" series is set in J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World and features the adventures of magizoologist Newt Scamander.

After years spent watching Harry Potter grow up, the transition to the prequel era of "Fantastic Beasts" and the story of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) was a welcome change. Redmayne's portrayal of Scamander as a slightly aloof, misunderstood underdog made for a charming lead who felt like he had more in common with Doctor Who than one of J.K. Rowling's wizards. While the second outing surpasses the first with its visual flair, the story behind "The Crimes of Grindelwald" is much weaker this time around.

"The Crimes of Grindelwald" kicks off half a year after the end of "Fantastic Beasts," just as Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) makes his escape from prison. Meanwhile, Newt is back home, banned from travel due to the events of the first film and his refusal to hunt down Credence (Ezra Miller), the powerful orphan Obscurial. After a brief tour of Newt's home, a rather convoluted subplot sends Newt and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) to Paris to — you guessed it — find Credence.

One of the biggest problems with "The Crimes of Grindelwald" is that the plot isn't driven by the characters. Thing just kind of happen, and the characters are along for the ride. Newt is just as charming this time around, but even he feels like a supporting character in a film that is ostensibly about his story.

There's no need to bother with character motivation here, or any sort of individual logic really, as the Rube Goldberg-style scheming of Grindelwald only works because of plot armor. Rowling hasn't assembled a master chess board here. She has simply thrown a bunch of stuff at the wall in a vain attempt to hope that something sticks. Decisions are made because the story requires them to be made. Characters have vague, needlessly mysterious backstories that end up as complete red herrings. Good characters do bad things because reasons.

Random actions like this don't make for drama or any real conflict. They just make you sit there and wonder why the characters are being so stupid. Credence is a perfect example. After the hell that Grindelwald put him through in the first film, he just suddenly up and trusts him here. No rhyme, no reason. Just blind trust.

Grindelwald himself is supposed to be a plotting, scheming mastermind, yet "The Crimes of Grindelwald" doesn't really show him committing many actual crimes. He leaves the senseless killing to his lackies, while he rants about the evils of war. Rowling may have been trying to paint him as a sympathetic villain, but she misses the mark, and there isn't much that Depp can do to turn it around. The only reason we know Grindelwald is a threat is because we're told that he's an equal of Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law).

Law is one of the film's strengths, portraying Dumbledore as a confident, yet conflicted, character. Rowling doesn't seem to struggle with his character, perhaps because she spent so much time defining him over the course of the Harry Potter novels.

Where "The Crimes of Grindelwald" excels is in the costuming, character, and set design. Director David Yates obviously knew that there were issues with the plotting, as he wisely focused on the film's visual identity. While we spend little time in New York and London, Paris is given the full treatment, with period-specific costumes and incredibly detailed sets. It's the little things that matter, and on this front, "The Crimes of Grindelwald" delivers in spades.

A specific highlight is the movie's depiction of a "real life" Chinese dragon. This creature isn't based on the traditional idea of a dragon, but rather what one of the flowing red dragon costumes during Chinese New Year celebrations might look like if it were a real creature.

Given that "The Crimes of Grindelwald" is supposed to be the second installment of a five-part series, it's understandable that not every plot thread would be wrapped up, and some mysteries might be left for later films. That's not what happened here. Instead of a stand-alone story that also sets the stage, "The Crimes of Grindelwald" simply delivers a rambling prologue with little actual substance.

If you're a massive fan of the Wizarding World and simply want to see the spectacle on the big screen, then head off to the theater to check this one out. "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" certainly looks pretty. If you put more value on story over visuals, you might want to wait for a matinee or home video, as "The Crimes of Grindelwald" is a step down from "Fantastic Beasts."

Score: 6.0/10

"Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 2 hours and 14 minutes. It will be showing in 2-D, 3-D, IMAX, and IMAX 3D.

More articles about Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
blog comments powered by Disqus