In November 2015, fans of Harry Potter were delighted to hear the news of a new movie franchise, set in Potter’s Wizarding World. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, an expansion on Rowling’s lore, came out the following year, receiving positive reviews and responses from audiences, and work soon began on the film’s sequel. “The Crimes of Grindelwald” reunites audiences with a familiar cast and production team.Harry Potter veteran David Yates returns to the director’s chair, along with a second screenplay from J.K. Rowling.
Resuming from the previous installment’s final moments, the film centers around Grindelwald, a dark wizard gone rogue. Played expertly by Johnny Depp, Grindelwald reveals his plot to rid the Earth of “no-maj”, or those without magical powers (most of us know them as Muggles). Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) teams up once again with his friends Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterstone) and her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) to hunt down Grindelwald and prevent him from abducting Credence (Ezra Miller), an orphan filled with a powerful form of dark magic. Jude Law also joins the cast to portray a young Albus Dumbledore, whose connection to the conflict adds a twist to the film.
“The Crimes of Grindelwald” struggles to pull together a larger ensemble cast, which ends up full of too many characters that, while interesting, feel thinly written and wasted. Engaging and charming characters have always been the strength of the Potter world, but this installment is a huge exception. As the title indicates, there are creatures, and improvements in CGI only make them look and sound better. The spells are more sophisticated; the magic is still there.
Unfortunately, Yates’ action sequences are messy and cramped, making them difficult to follow on screen. Yes, there is a lot of content, and diehard Potter fans might find comfort in that. However, with no real source material from which to draw its plot, the film feels as if it is laying down the track as it goes. In hoping that it will somehow eventually tie together with the original saga, its conclusion falls flat. Because of our distant relationship with some of the installment’s new characters, it became difficult for audiences to invest in their stories. The film, in anticipation of its sequel, ends with unanswered questions that are designed to be resolved later. The entire film feels like a means to an end that we won’t see for another few years.
What the “Fantastic Beasts” series is forgetting is that the attraction to Harry Potter’s world was never just about the spells and creatures. We followed Harry Potter for seven books and eight movies because of our attachment to the characters (good and bad) and their rich personalities and motivations. The Crimes of Grindelwald offers brief glimpses of Potter magic, but due to a cluttered story and flimsy characters, collapses under its own weight.
“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is currently playing at Mount Vernon’s Premiere Theater.