Crimes of Grindelwald Review
The second chapter in the Fantastic Beasts franchise adopts a more ominous tone, featuring more wizard politics and less crazy creatures. The major downfall of this film is the plodding script’s incessant desire to explore uninteresting characters, while focusing on a plethora of reveals. Undoubtedly, less is more, as the need to “up the ante” perversely takes the spotlight off of the core Fantastic Beasts characters. Johnny Depp feels in his element chewing up the screen as the malevolent Grindelwald, while Jude Law brings a new dimension to the beloved Albus Dumbledore. Overall, this is definitely a step back for the Wizarding World franchise, but there are some interesting elements that could be further explored in a sequel.
In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans of raising pure-blood wizards to rule over all non-magical beings, Albus Dumbledore enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided world.
It is an understatement to say that politics is at the forefront of this film. Topics, such as discrimination and war feature prominently here. While these adult tones are no stranger to harry Potter films, the ideas are rushed in this film and not fully explored. A captivating rally by Grindelwald will have a demonstrative impact on many viewers, but the ensuing climax may ultimately stifle any interest with unearned moments.
The real crime that infects this film is a lack of attention to character development. Newt barely evolves as a character and is mostly chasing after Tina, finally admitting his feelings hinted at from the first film. Eddie Redmayne brings a weird characterization to the reluctant hero that mostly works, save for a few awkward camera shots that should’ve been left on the cutting floor. This time around, Leta Lestrange, Newt’s former love interest, is featured in the film, but it is doubtful that audiences will sympathize with her struggle and misfortunes. Flashbacks attempt to force audiences to care about Leta, but a revolving series of twists and turns will likely have no significant effect. Undoubtedly, the prequel is falling prey to telling us about how we should feel about the characters, rather than showing audiences character traits, allowing viewers to reach their own conclusions.
Even fan favorites like Kowalski and Queenie lose their charm as they seem thrust into the sequence of events without any real reason for being involved. Their story takes an unexpected turn that once again feels like an unearned twist for the sake of the story. As a result, somewhat complex characters from the first film have become cartoonish sketches.
Admittedly, the Hogwarts scenes were enjoyable, and it is fun to see Dumbledore actually teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts classes. Lumping most of the school scenes together does diminish the main storyline, slowing down the plot dramatically. The complex relationship between Grindelwald and Dumbledore is not so subtly hinted at, but it is clear that this franchise is saving the nuances of this dynamic for a later entry.
Given the Fantastic Beasts inclusion in the title, the famous animals have to make an appearance. There is a fantastical scene of an underwater diving creature in the beginning and a massive cat of Chinese-origin. Ultimately, these creatures don’t have the same lasting appeal as the varied beasts from the prior film.
Credence is as confused as ever, and the whole story seems pre-occupied with him finding his destiny. Save for one scene regarding him possibly reconnecting with his mother, Credence’s search for meaning is ultimately forgettable. The final reveal is utterly laughable and a clear cry of fan-induced writing. I’ll give the filmmakers an out here, as it may be more of a false origin, but how many times can we bear to sit through a fake background on Credence’s history.
Grindelwald is a bright spot in this murky film. More of the contrasts between him and Voldemort should be clearly exhibited in the plot. His power of persuasion is clearly demonstrated in this film and may be his most astonishing magic act. The film even starts off with a fun and death-defying prison break in midair. More actions scenes involving Grindelwald actually getting his hands dirty would’ve enhanced this magical outing.