In 2016, only a mere 5 years after the final “Harry Potter” film, that was “Deathly Hallows: Part 2”. We got the first of a planned 5 movie “Harry Potter” prequel franchise. Taking place 70 years before Harry and the gang is “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”, that featured an all adult cast and took a slightly darker tone.
“Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”, blew my mind and was in my top 10 best films of 2016. Now two years later Newt Scamander is back in “Fantastic Beasts The Crimes Of Grindelwald”. If you haven’t seen the first installment, then please do. It’s amazing! It’s a good idea to watch it before you head to the multiplex to catch this new one. When Newt (Eddie Redmayne) arrived in New York City in the first film, with his magical suitcase filled with amazing creatures, it ignited quite the chaotic chain of events. Both films features a screenplay written by author JK Rowling herself, with “Harry Potter” veteran and the only capable filmmaker to handle the series, David Yates directing. Yates who also did the incredible “Legend Of Tarzan”, just three months before he released “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” in 2016, is an incredibly visionary filmmaker and can handle epic scale films like these. Backed with a cast of richly talented actors, “The Crimes of Grindelwald” comes to theaters loaded with credentials and giant scale potential.
Unfortunately unlike “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them”, which was a perfect film. “The Crimes Of Grindelwald” is a maddeningly convoluted film. A number of key characters who have been on parallel missions ends up finding themselves in the same locale in “Grindelwald”. For 2 hours and 15 minutes, everyone is running and teleporting back and forth wondering: What in the heck is going on here? What is the real truth?
A character launches themselves into a head-spinning soap opera story involving flashbacks, scandalous romances, betrayals and deaths. Just when we think we might have a handle on who’s who and what’s what in Rowling’s script, another character interrupts and says, no-no-no-no, that’s not what happened at all, here is what really happened! It goes on for way too long. Ugh….get to the wand waving and magic already. Even “Wizards Of Waverly Place” had more magic battles than this.
Rowling’s screenplay sinks under the weight of too many intersecting storylines. Sorry Rowling but your no Tarantino. “The Crimes Of Grindelwald” picks up the story, where Rowling and Yates ended the last “Fantastic Beasts” with a “Scooby Doo” reveal, that the villain played by Colin Farrell, was actually fabled dark wizard Grindelwald. With the notorious and powerful dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp who used inspiration from another rock musician for his look. This time taking his rocking spiked, white-blonde hair that makes him look like a Billy Idol impersonator. Grindelwald is on the loose from being holed up in prison after being captured by the U.S. Ministry of Magic. For the last hundred years or so, humans and wizards have co existed in a relatively peaceful fashion. But Grindelwald believes that now is the time for “Pure Bloods” to take their rightful place as the superior beings or the chosen rulers. I only know this because I had to look it up. While Grindelwald struts about in his leather boots and his fashionably layered rock star look, Grindelwald commands his audience with his magic like he’s Criss Angel to the 10th power. Let’s drop in on some of the many, many, many ongoing subplots. Nah I don’t have time, nor did I catch any of the hundreds of subplots.
Not only that but there is a lot of supporting cast members. There’s more cast members than in one episode of “Downton Abbey”. Everyone makes a return appearance including “Good Luck Chuck’s” Dan Fogler, who is back for comic relief. Returning is Credence Barebone (that is one cool name) played by Ezra Miller, who’s been missing since the end of the first “Fantastic Beasts” and still has a sinister, all-powerful magic parasite inside him called an Obscurus (which I also had to look up online).
Dumbledore, finally makes an official…. cameo and is a welcome return to the series. The always great Jude Law captures the quick wit and easy charm of the character, who is already considered one of the greatest wizards in the world. Dumbledore is supposedly the only one with the strength to take down Grindelwald. Problem is, Dumbledore can’t fight Grindelwald because of the very special bond they shared as young men. “You were as close as brothers,” says a law enforcement official. “We were Closer,” replies Dumbledore, as he watches memories that evoke, but still refuse to openly admit to, the character’s obvious homosexuality, which is turning into a distraction. Instead of giving us a convoluted plot. Why couldn’t Rowling warrant this storyline to have a further exploration. Oh yea because she is to busy bouncing all over the place trying to stuff the film Tarantino style. “Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald,” plays like Rowling wrote a 1,000 plus page novel and just ripped out certain pages and shoved them into a 2 hour 15 minute running time.
The actual investigation conducted by Newt, Tina, and just about everybody else is an intriguing adventure with exciting revelations. They just probably would have made more of an impact if the movie wasn’t so rushed for time, where key elements feel like afterthoughts. Yates is a great filmmaker and he captures the promise of this new series, to view the world of magic and wonder through the eyes of adults instead of children, and to explore shadowy corners without completely losing track of just how delightful the wizarding world is.
GRADE: ★★1/2 OUT OF ★★★★★ (5)