Harry Potter opened up a magical world that inspired many kids my age to do the unthinkable, read a book. My early days of waiting in line for a midnight release wasn’t for a new Star Wars, Lord of The Rings, or Marvel movie, no, it was something way more special and memorable. It was waiting in line at a Joseph Beth for the latest Harry Potter adventure with my friends, mom, and friend’s parents, drinking “Polyjuice Potion” which I can only assume was a mixture of Sprite Remix and the sweat of whatever employee made it. The movies were a similar story, the words we read on the page came to life and with each new story as Harry, Ron, and Hermoine grew up, so did we. This world will always hold a special place in my heart and is why it hurts so much to say this. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Gridelwald is just plain bad.
I’ll admit I was incredibly excited for this film and I really liked the original Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It somehow kept the whimsical charm of the original series and gave us characters to actually care about. It was a…..fantastic introduction to a familiar world but with some aspects we hadn’t seen in the originals. Unfortunately it’s sequel, Crimes of Grindelwald, takes the first film and does little to capitalize on what made it good.
I’ll start with what a liked about it and unfortunately, it’s really short.
First and foremost, the central characters I liked in the first are all here and they continue to be charming and likable. Newt, Jacob, Queenie, and Tina, while not quite Harry, Ron, and Hermoine, all are a compelling core, that provide enough interesting storylines to keep you engaged and interested where their story goes from here. Jacob in particular is always good for a chuckle and acts as the audience throughout the movie. Asking questions that are obvious to witches and wizards, but not so much to us Muggles.
Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore does a particularly great job of portraying a character that we all know and love in the future but seeing him a little half-baked, not quite to where we’ll see him in 60-70 years. There’s this twinkle in his eye that’s easy to love but at the same time can convey a deeper conflict that resides in Dumbledore due to his relationship with Grindelwald. If I’m happy with anything it’s just how happy I am with where Law can go as Dumbledore, a lot of good set-up for some great battles down the line. All that being said, he’s in the movie for maybe 10 minutes and he doesn’t really do much in the film. It’s a testament to Law’s performance that I enjoyed it so much with such a small sample size.
Set-up is really a big problem that I have with this movie as a whole, and really why I was so disappointed in it. That’s really all it is. All the while not being particularly interesting in the process. In a world filled with so much magic and wonder there is no way I should be bored for an hour and 45 minutes of a two hour and 15 minute film. Even what it tries to set up is poorly written and the big “reveals” aren’t really all that Earth-shattering and the explanation behind all of them is just down-right confusing and feels like the worst Pottermore fan fiction imaginable.
I really, really hate to say it, but I think it’s time to reign in J.K Rowling. In the same way that George Lucas may have gone a little overboard and convoluted in his prequel trilogy, Rowling is doing the exact same. Losing sight of what made the originals so special and beloved and making ridiculous plot decisions just because she can. Characters that were supposedly killed in the last film inexplicably return and the most explanation we get is, “Just because.” it’s frustrating because there is so much potential here and it’s concept is already so intriguing.
Crimes of Grindelwald is also unnecessarily dark. Not just tonally, the film is just drab and lifeless. It tries to be the Empire Strikes Back of Fantastic Beasts and ends up a lot more like Attack of the Clones. Boring, bogged down by questionable dialogue, attempts to be dark for the sake of being dark. The only thing missing is a whiny heart throb complaining about how much he hates sand.
Johnny Depp just isn’t that good as Grindelwald and continues his descent into just not caring anymore and being more famous or infamous for his many personal issues. Grindelwald is the wizard equivalent of Hitler and just doesn’t feel like it. He speaks in a monotone voice throughout and while I understand wanting to do something different than Voldemort, he just isn’t menacing. Truly disappointing after his reveal as the character in the last film.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald does almost nothing right and was truly a chore to sit through. It’s long, unnecessarily confusing, and it’s greatest sin, being remarkably boring. While there are some great nods to the larger wizarding world and the core group of characters are awesome, it can’t save what is easily the worst film in the Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts series.
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May the Force be with you!