By Jonathan Reed
Video courtesy of Warner Bros. Studios ©
The imagination of Harry Potter creator, J.K. Rowling never ceases to amaze. The ingenuity of her magic and her attention to detail is the reason as to why the Harry Potter series was such a phenomenal success.
However, sometimes that mixture of elements can manifest into a plot whereby it causes confusion, and a mass of characters who seem to have no clear direction or story development. Sadly, the latter best describes Rowling’s latest outing into the Harry Potter world, Fantastic Beasts – The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Following on from the first Fantastic Beasts’ film, The Crimes of Grindelwald finds Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) attempting to take down the dark wizard Gellert Grindewald (Johnny Depp) in a more divided wizarding world.
Whilst the basic plot description may read simplistic, the movie is anything but. Utilising all the characters from the previous film and then branching off into the Harry Potter world, it sometimes feels overwhelming. The characters never fully seem to enjoy enough of their own screen time, leaving the plot feeling disjointed and overly complicated.
And whilst some of the more hardcore Harry Potter fans will revel in the fully packed plotlines, to those who aren’t as invested, it is hard to maintain an idea of understanding. The main problem derides of the fact that Fantastic Beasts is too ambitious. Multiple subplots are either left opened or are closed by a lack-lustre ending that feels rushed and sloppy.
What can’t be a complaint, are the performances of the cast. Eddie Redmayne is once again, brilliant as Newt Scamander, mixing beautifully the eagerness of adventure with a touch of empathy for those he meets along the way.
Jude Law is equally exceptional as a young Albus Dumbledore, exploring a character who has seen major development since the final Harry Potter film. Ezra Miller returns as Credence Barebone, where he navigates the revelations across his characters’ arc with ease.
Johnny Depp, who appeared briefly in the first film, receives much more airtime here and manages to make Grindewald his own. Perhaps, the outstanding performance goes to Zoë Kravitz, who brings Leta Lestrange to life. She expertly treads the role of outcast and potential love interest with a natural approach, leading to a tragic climax that thoroughly packs a punch.
Yet, whilst the performances carry the movie, the plot consistently fails to do so. It is a real shame as the potential demonstrated in the original movie showed great promise. Sadly, the magic fails to make the Crimes of Grindelwald soar. It’s not so much a golden snitch but instead a bludger.
The special effects need particular mention as they are spectacular on the big screen, bringing the magical world of J.K. Rowling’s imagination to fruition in the most detailed and believable way.
Now there is no doubting that the movie will be a major hit at the Box Office, but it doesn’t distract from the disappointment felt as the credits role. This reaction leaves a bigger question hanging in the air, one that perhaps could explain the disjointed plot. Most will see Fantastic Beasts due to the movies’ links to the famous boy wizard. This sadly doesn’t help the fluidity of the movie, instead its harbours it.
It is hard not to feel as though the makers have tried to inject as much Potter influence as possible, restricting the freedom to divert into the wider wizarding universe. The end result leaves a movie that is much too complex and struggles to follow its own narrative and structure.
And whilst it isn’t a complete disappointment, the Crimes Of Grendelwald feels somewhat rushed and unfinished. It is as if the script lost its way and Harry Potter references were applied to fill in the gaps. With another three movies scheduled to finish off the series, there is plenty of time for the whole plot to make sense. But if this is a sign of things to come, the Fantastic Beast series will very quickly transform from a world of wonderful wizardry, to a muddling Muggle mess.