Image Credit: Warner Bros.
To begin this review, I should firstly admit to being a big fan of the Harry Potter Universe, or as it is now more commercially known, the Wizarding World. This is why I am saddened to admit that unlike many fans that have raged against this movie’s low critical reception, I must agree that it was not up to the standard expected from the franchise. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald picks up a few months after its predecessor, and tracks the stories and relationships of our lead, Newt Scamander, and his various allies. All the while, the rise of the dark wizard Grindelwald adds a threatening tone to an already surprisingly dark movie.
The greatest flaw of this film was its attempt to cram too many storylines and characters into the same tale. This resulted in a clutter of scenes which cut quickly from one storyline to another without offering the audience enough time to become immersed and attached to any of the stories. When leaving the cinema, I heard a few grumblings from fellow viewers that the film was too long and could have done with scenes being made cut to make it shorter, but I would have to disagree, – the bittiness of its scenes already made it feel unsatisfying.
Each storyline would have been improved if offered more time to develop in front of the audience
Although it shows many different stories during its runtime, it actually covered quite little because each was dealt with so sparingly. Each story would have been improved if offered more time to develop in front of the audience, but then again, this film would not benefit from being longer either. Perhaps those critics that have voiced the opinion that this franchise would have made a better TV series are right. But this approach would not have benefited the first film. That was more linear and offered longer scenes that felt immersive and filled with heart. What was most annoying about this addition to the franchise was that each scene clearly held the potential for such depth, but only a few delivered. J. K. Rowling needs to learn that writing for a screenplay cannot be the same as writing a book. A film calls for more cohesion because it lacks the clear narrative voice which allows for a book to switch perspectives without confusing its readers.
Some of the strongest scenes of the movie were those that did offer better cohesive detail, such as the flashbacks into the past lives of its leading characters. These were made effective through the excellent younger cast, who were essential in fleshing out the relationships shared between these younger and unfamiliar iterations of their characters. In fact, one of the greatest attributes of this film was that the entire cast’s performances were wonderful, despite some characters feeling greatly underused such as Katherine Waterston’s Tina, or Claudia Kim’s Nagini. Considering the controversy surrounding the latter, her character feels like an unnecessary trouble for this film – it sadly doesn’t seem to value her existence for any more than the shock factor of her name. On the other hand, Jude Law’s Dumbledore, though also absent for much of the film, was a wonderful addition, clearly drawing from the book character, as well as the previous film versions of the character for his portrayal.
One of my own personal highlights from the first film was the sense of wonder and magic brought about by the fantastical creatures on display. Although they are side-lined in this sequel, our moments with them offered the same joy as in the last film thanks to some more excellent CGI and another endearing performance from Eddie Redmayne as Newt.
Finally, the music, set, and costume design is phenomenal, allowing for full immersion in the magical world even if the specific scenes shown within it are too cut-up to offer the same. Therefore, this film, despite its flaws, still somehow manages to remain an enjoyable, if often confused, addition to the Wizarding World. If you are a fan of this world and prequel series, then this film is worth a watch. Acting as an important setup for this franchise’s future onscreen works, it will certainly be necessary viewing before moving on to the next feature. One can only hope that these future Fantastic Beasts films will learn from the mistakes of this one, and return to the cohesion, heart, and depth of storytelling seen in the first.