Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is one of my absolute favorite films. I watched it seven times in theatres during its theatrical run, so it’s safe to say that I loved it quite a bit. My excitement for The Crimes of Grindelwald started out high, then went to mild, and upon seeing the film, any excitement I had has gone away and a wave of overall disappointment has swept over me - making this sequel something that I certainly won’t revisit seven times, or probably not even once more.
David Yates returns once more for the newest installment in the Wizarding World. Unfortunately for him, his occasionally sloppy direction really showcases itself this time around with awkward closeups, odd action scenes, and off putting character motivations. Now while some of that may be attributed to the script, the camera direction is most likely confirmed and executed by the director himself. Being Yates’ sixth time in the directing chair for the Harry Potter series, it makes this film all the more underwhelming. Yates really is a phenomenal director, but the little errors of poorly paced action or awkward closeups during emotional and comedic moments just stand out much more prominently than ever before. I don’t blame Yates entirely for the film’s faults, as that criticism goes almost entirely to the scribe.
What have you done JK Rowling? This film suffers drastically from a messy plot that never truly can connect the dots along the way. With many different character arcs and action setpieces coinciding within The Crimes of Grindelwald, it’s almost entirely too difficult to follow. The sense of wonder that came from the first film is almost completely lost within The Crimes of Grindelwald, as the entire film seems to not understand what tone it wants to set for this new franchise. It takes the series into an even darker direction than the first, but it’s a relatively sudden burst of darkness that engulfs the film in comparison to the first’s rather bleak but much lighter tone. Alongside this stands an even larger issue, as this film is far too crowded, and while an author of a book will have chapters upon chapters to express the characters individual motivations, a screenplay must understand what to take out and what to leave in to make the film work as a whole. As a lover of her books and the adaptations of her work, along with the original Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I was shocked by just how much unnecessary backstory threads were pushed within this already somewhat tired plotline (even reminding me a little of Thanos’ intentions in Infinity War).
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The characters truly made the first film an incredibly detailed, emotional, and character driven experience. However this sequel takes it upon itself to ruin a few of the characters right from the start, while luckily salvaging my two personal favorites, Jacob and Newt, from the original. Johnny Depp was a giant worry for myself going into the feature, as I was worrying about just how silly his performance would wind up being, however his performance works rather well in this universe, and I’d like to see more of his character. The real standout though is the legendary Jude Law, taking on the role of Albus Dumbledore, and oh boy is he exquisite in the role. The only big plus the film provides us with storywise for our character is the promise that Dumbledore and Grindelwald may meet once more in future installments. All of the character dialogue is intriguing, and new characters bring a little more to the film while at the same time outweighing all the good character qualities the prior film provided. It’s just a shame that Tina and Queenie couldn’t be expanded upon in any successful capacity when they had so much more to be discovered set up by the first.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Has there ever been a bad Harry Potter score? The answer is of course no, and this film stills obtains the magnificent score that the others possess, and I’d say that above all else James Newton Howard’s score kept my attention throughout. Without his phenomenal score, I truly believe that the film would have suffered even more, with scenes that work so well emotionally not working as well or not at all with another score. It’s practically needless to say how impressive the sound design is in this universe, as every aspect is tremendous and really makes the film much more satisfying than what it could have ended up being. Absolutely none of the film’s faults lie within the sound, especially the impressive display of different Beast noises and impressive magic casting audio that somehow never gets tiresome after so many flicks of the wand.
Effect-wise the film is incredibly interesting to look at, and while there may not be as many new Fantastic Beasts this time around, we do get a handful of reprising Beasts and they are just as fascinating as ever. The film is a little darker than the first, and I’d even say that even in the light of day, Hogwarts is seen in the darkest visual representation yet. What I was fearing from the first luckily didn’t come true and that was Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald looking absolutely ridiculous. Somehow Depp makes the look work extremely well with the world. The makeup, the costume design, and the set designs are all phenomenal to see, but they all pale in comparison to the other eight films in the franchise. Beyond a single moment of CGI flood at the end of the film, the film keeps its digital effects relatively simplistic and I'm all for that, especially if it makes for less screen time of CGI messes.
I wanted to love this film just like I did the original, but after leaving the theater initially happy with my experience, the problems soon outweighed the positives. At times I couldn’t even recognize this franchise. Sure it has wizards and references to the original series, but it’s tone and plot are severely flawed. Soon enough when the Fantastic Beasts franchise is over with, The Crimes of Grindelwald will hopefully be looked back on as nothing more than an overly long filler film - just as it feels like today.