Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald English Movie Review
"Two down, three to go", count down all faithful Harry Potter to the end of the new series of films in the expanded wizarding world of Fantastic Beasts and blinkered people. Whether you're counting down to find out how this saga ends or to just see it end and put to rest depends on which side of the debate on the essentialness of these films you rest on (or even on The Hobbit trilogy, for that matter).
Loyalists will tell you there's no such thing as being neutral but the middle ground is exactly where I lay after the first film came out. It wasn't exactly the film that would shut up naysayers but it was well crafted, different enough from the previous 7 films and set up enough of a future to stand on its own franchise feet. Crimes of Grindelwald, its direct follow-up, is another case altogether, though.
J.K. Rowling and David Yates, the gods of the Harry Potter universe, seem utterly unsure this time around about where ahead to take these new characters. For the visionaries that these 2 people are, they show quite a lack of vision regarding the significance of any of what we watch for 2 hours plus on the screen. Sure, it's still visually splendorous and there are magical beings and moments that would remind every Potterhead of a better era but the rest of it just seems like an exercise in futility.
Scratch that. The whole film actually feels like a very deliberate exercise in buying time. Rowling and Yates don't know where to take the third film and the two thereafter? Then let's just buy some time. Let's make a second film that continues from the first (to satisfy the criteria of being a saga) and then throw a lot of stuff on the wall haphazardly for a long enough time to distract the fans from noticing that all this while, the story has barely crawled forward from where the first one had ended.
Grindelwald, captured and imprisoned, is being transported for some purpose in the opening scene. So what happens next? Escape! What does he do with his new-found, precious freedom throughout the film till the climax? Nothing! What does he do in the climax? Speech! Then nothing again!
What does Newt do throughout the film? Nothing. Tina? Nothing. Credence? Nothing. And DUMBLEDORE? Nope. Nada. Nothing. I would've called it an existential drama, if only any character exploration had been done.
Eddie Redmayne continues to be sporadically consistent in the lead role. For all of Johnny Depp's long history of eccentric characters, he plays Grindelwald way too straight, no trace of humor or charm anywhere to be found. Katherine Waterson deserves roles with bigger lengths but you're still happy whenever she's on screen here. Zoe Kravitz's character remains a complete mystery to me still, not in a good way. Dan Fogler is now a liability they had to carry over to the second film for the sake of continuity. Ezra Miller is mostly good and consistently noticeable.
Even though it's actually a half decent film otherwise, the biggest crimes in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald are that there's not enough crime, not enough confrontation, not even drama, not enough plot, not enough anything except for running time minutes and J.K. Rowling has been caught red-handed. Will she repeat the same crimes over again next time around?