A 2 hour and a quarter hour film that tells a ten minute story. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is an unfortunate reminder that even the best loved franchises are little more than cash cows, attempting to squeeze as much money out of the fan-base as they can. With few events that will have any lasting impact on the overarching story, it comes off as a waste of time, and frankly, that’s exactly what it is.
The second part in what as been announced to be a five part film series, Fantastic Beats: The Crimes of Grindelwald does little more than prove that it is simply part of a much larger story. David Yates returns to direct, following the success of the first instalment, who made a name for himself directing the last four parts of the Harry Potter franchise. J.K. Rowling also reprises her writing role with many cast members also making a comeback. Unfortunately, failing to fill a near two and a half hour plot, The Crimes of Grindelwald, utterly lacks any real game changing events beyond those that happen within the last 20 minutes or so resulting in a dragged out and sadly rather boring tale.
Eddie Redmayne returns as Newt Scamander and plays the part wonderfully. The introverted wizard who much prefers the company of his many beasts is just as likeable as ever and becomes even more so with every nervous phrasing and purposefully avoided eye contact throughout. Sadly Newt is given very little to do within the plot and as a result, ends up being very much a side character in a film in which he is supposed to be the hero. Johnny Depp also returns as Grindelwald and is given much more room to breathe than he was in the first film, however that is not asking much as he was only present for the very end of Where to Find Them and he also suffers from not being given enough to do within the plot.
The problem with the writing throughout the film is that it appears that either, this was originally a much larger picture that has had much cut out in order to fit it into a view-able time frame, or the entire picture was simply a small segment of what we know now to be a much larger story, and has been dragged out in order to justify its own release. Whatever happened behind the scenes, the entire project suffers for it. Much of the time spent viewing this film will result in confusion as you expect to have been given more information than you have, only to find out that the information was never there in the first place and what you have been watching was actually a ten minute segment of a two hour film that has been stretched and filled with inconsequential events that don’t really make a huge amount of sense. When experiencing a plot like this in a ten minute chunk as part of a larger story, much of the confusion is forgiven as you quickly move onto the next event. However when the film simply comprises of two (at a stretch three) key events, it is difficult to ignore all the monotonous minutia that happens in between. Very few of the characters have any development that takes place outside of the last five minutes, with one character in particular switching their stance because of something that happened off screen. It comes off as though “let’s just remind everyone this franchise exists, without actually doing too much with the story so we can save the good stuff for later.” It’s utterly disappointing and ultimately terribly inconsequential.
Visually however the film is rather stunning. The camera is almost in constant movement mimicking the way in which the wizarding world operates. Wonderful set design and clever special effects bring the world to life with Newt’s beasts consistently being utterly adorable and at times quite terrifying. The action scenes (be they few) are rather spectacular even if they lack a tension that is the fault of the plot. It is difficult to appreciate great special effects if you don’t care about the characters that are in amongst them.
Ultimately Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a rather dull affair. Not that much happens that has any lasting effect on the overarching Fantastic Beasts plot. As individual moments it is enjoyable however. It’s exciting to watch Newt work his magic on the beasts of the wizard world or watch Grindelwald commit heinous acts in the name of freedom, but unfortunately it all falls down as the overarching plot doesn’t to well at all at tying the together. Events just seem to happen with little causal relationship throughout. You’ll find yourself at the end of the film simultaneously asking, “is that really it?” and “thank god that’s over.” It’s not a disaster and fans of the franchise will undoubtedly find much to talk about and theorise around, but as a stand-alone film, it’s not very good at all.