Written by Franco Grimoldi Calo
I truly wanted to like this movie. I loved the first one, and I wanted its sequel to be at least of the same caliber. Unfortunately, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald does not cast the same spell as its predecessor did.
Before I begin, let me get this out of the way. I understand that the Harry Potter films and and the Fantastic Beasts Films are both set in the same world. That, however, does not mean that the tone and overall appeal of the films has to be the same. Some elements, such as magic, will obviously carry over from one series to the other, but even that can be implemented in different ways. What I’m saying is that I won’t compare this movie to the Harry Potter franchise, it’s just not fair.
Following the events of 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the evil wizard Grindelwald escapes from captivity in hopes to amass a following of pure-blooded wizards who want to be open about their magic. They want to rule the muggle/no-maj world since they believe that because they are capable of doing magic, they are of a higher quality than them and thus see no reason as to why they should hide their magic from them. Grindelwald believes that it is essential for his plan to gain Credence Barebone’s allegiance. And so, Albus Dumbledore, now a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts, assigns Newt Scamander to prevent Grindelwald from getting ahold of Credence.
While watching this film, I kept wondering to myself, “Is this movie really bad at storytelling or did I just forget a lot from the first film?”. I was relieved to find out after discussing the film among the friends I saw it with, that they were also confused with its story. The film started off fine, establishing the situation of most of the characters after the first film, but it got really messy near the end of its first act. The film had a lot of heavy exposition during its second act, and it really jumbled up my mind, especially with the many side plots and the plot twists near the end of this film. All the exposition and a slow pace really made the film’s plot feel like it wasn’t progressing. Characters that were briefly mentioned in the first film were given a lot of screen time, and I felt like I didn’t have enough time to care enough about some of them. Some of these characters include Newt’s brother, Theseus, Yusuf, and the recently introduced Nagini. Fans of the Harry Potter series will recognize that Nagini was Voldemort’s pet snake, and now it’s revealed that it was originally a human who was a Maledictus. According to Pottermore, “[a] ‘Maledictus’ is a carrier of a blood curse which will ultimately destine them to transform permanently into a beast”. While this may be a neat little addition to the Harry Potter lore, it feels unnecessary. Nagini’s character was pointless in this film, serving as nothing more than a dull companion to Credence, and it became just another undeveloped character that the audience is supposed to care about.
Now, I didn’t completely hate this movie. Some of my favorite scenes were flashbacks from Leta Lestrange, Newt’s past love interest, where it showed her experience as a student at Hogwarts. As a huge fan of Harry Potter, I felt extremely nostalgic seeing Hogwarts again. It was almost like seeing a childhood home after a really long absence from it. As cliche as it may be, those hallways, courtyards, and classrooms do cast a spell on me. Those scenes also showed her relationship with Newt, which was really heartwarming. Out of all of the new characters in this film, Leta felt like the most complete. You can understand her drive, her reasoning, and her actions, even though you can’t really understand her backstory because it wasn’t explained well.
Another character who was very nice to see again was Albus Dumbledore, played incredibly by Jude Law. He flawlessly captured the same personality, manner, and behavior from the Dumbledore we know from the Harry Potter films. Every scene that had Dumbledore in it was absolutely great. Although he didn’t have too much screen time, the film ends in a way that suggests that his character will have a larger role in the following Fantastic Beasts movies due to his complicated relationship with Grindelwald.
Even though the first and second acts were a bit of a sloppy joe, the third was a nice burger with a little bit of nasty mustard. I regret using that metaphor, but hey, it gets my point across. The third act was really exciting and suspenseful. Here we saw all of the character’s stories and motives come together, crafting a very intense climax. It had a lot of very spoilable moments which will not be discussed, but they will surely be talked about in the coming days. The ending of this film, although it deserves some careful analysis by a hardcore Harry Potter fan, was almost jaw dropping. Even though it had me and my friends questioning our past knowledge from the Harry Potter books, because it could have been inconsistent from the lore, I was really excited by it. It opens a lot of opportunities for the next sequels, and hopefully one of those will be a much better film than this one.
I’ll give this film a 2.5/5. It’s hard for me to give such a low score to a film that belongs to my favorite fictional universe, but it is what it is. The movie has some redeeming qualities, but they don’t change the fact that the movie itself is a mess. If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter universe and can spare the price of a movie ticket, I’d go see this one nevertheless.