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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

I was excited when Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them first arrived in 2016. Like many of you, I am an avid-fan of the Harry Potter franchise and have a nostalgic affliction with it. Whereas the Harry Potter series felt fun and unique, however, I found the opposite could be said about Fantastic Beasts, which boasted a story-line and performances that simply didn't mesh well with what I wanted out of the film. Many others seemed to believe the “magic” was still there, but I didn't share the sentiment, citing it as an average 5-out-of-10 film in a series where the standard is usually higher. Nevertheless, I was excited for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, perhaps that's out of loyalty to the J. K. Rowling Wizard World, but it's also because I've found that with long-form storytelling, once the initial groundwork is laid, the meatier, more realized drama can come to fruition. The tenth film in the Wizarding World franchise, it follows Newt Scamander and Albus Dumbledore and their efforts to defeat the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald.

Johnny Depp returns to the role of Grindelwald, although, this time in a more prominent capacity, a fact shrouding the film in controversy and conflicting emotions. Depp's alleged misbehavior is unfortunate, especially when posed the question of what type of person you're supporting when you buy a movie-ticket. Ultimately, however, in the confines of this review, that doesn't change the fact his performance is by leaps and bounds my favorite part about this film. Whether or not Fantastic Beast 2's lighter than expected box-office performance (expected to be about two-hundred million shy of its predecessor) can be attributed to him or the mixed-to-negative reviews, is a topic for debate.Fantastic Beasts 2 is a lot more complicated than Harry Potter. A lot more complicated than the first Fantastic Beasts, in-fact. This might be appealing if we were discussing a jigsaw puzzle, but one of the most appealing aspects of Harry Potter, I think, had to do with its simplicity and how it evolved with the series. Fantastic Beasts 2 feels overstuffed with sub-plots and sentimentality, and like many modern-day franchises, feels completely subservient to the will of its eventual successors, struggling to earn its keep as a stand-alone film. This is different than what I thought about the Harry Potter series, except for, maybe, the first half of the Deathly Hallows, which I always thought was self-contained enough for each film to stand on their own. I could skip Sorcerer's Stone and comfortably watch and enjoy Chamber of Secrets, whereas Fantastic Beasts is far more dependent on the sum of its parts.

The characters struggle, in-particular our lead of Newt Scamander, who is plain, like a video-game character left on his default-settings. One could continue the comparison to Harry Potter, if they wanted, but unlike Harry, who had Ronald, Hermione, and some truly wonderful supporting-characters to liven things up while Harry acted as the relateable everyman, Newt's dry character is side-by-side with equally ho-hum character-roles. It isn't all disagreeable, as I found some scenes with Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore to be enjoyable, and I liked the proposed dynamic between him and Grindelwald. However, that doesn't change the fact I fundamentally don't care or feel made to care about anything at all in this film. I don't care about the Queenie and Jacob subplot, and I feel like their characters could be discarded for a tighter, more streamlined film. I'm never made to care about Credence as a character, and thereby, feel no reason to care about his origins. They don't feel like characters in a world, they feel like cogs in a machine. Like the film is going through the motions, checking off bullet-points, too busy getting geared up for Fantastic Beasts. It's a phrase everyone will use if they criticize Beasts, but it really does feel like it has lost all magic.

A speech given by Gellert Grindelwald at the film's home-stretch is what I enjoyed most about the film. His ideologies aren't anything very innovative or insightful. Usually any time someone's presented as a dictator, they throw out a few lines that vaguely resemble Hitler's, and their followers slap on arm-bands that resemble the Nazis. Grindelwald doesn't offer new subtleties or intricacies, but Depp delivers considerably on his execution. It's my favorite part of the film, and I'm still criticizing it more than praising it.

The special-effects are large and expensive, but I can't say that's what ever had this film-franchise on my radar. Wands shooting out magical light-beams and large, “fantastic” beasts brought down in anticlimactic, light-heart ways.

In the end, maybe some others will enjoy Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. I hope they do. I don't claim to be an arbitrator on whether a film is good or bad, but someone who watches films and walks out of the theater with thoughts I'd like to share. From my perspective though, Fantastic Beasts 2 is a busy, overly-complicated film, too focused on the series' endgame than itself, bloated with unnecessary, dull subplots, and woven-together with a sentimentality that depends on familiarity to the characters of its superior series predecessor.