Here we are once again, another prequel series has hit the silver screen and in an effort to make fast money at the box office, J.K. Rowling has left us with a mediocre filler movie to buy time for the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise. Although “Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald” is able to expand our wizarding world just a little more, it fails to meet the expectations that come with the wizarding world we had hoped to see.
“Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald” is the second installment in the Fantastic Beasts series of films (which are prequels to the original Harry Potter franchise). It follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), our protagonist, and his friends as they attempt to overcome the new dark forces at play before Voldemort and his Death Eaters come to town. Those new dark forces are Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) and his followers. Set at the tail end of the Roaring 20s, both the pre-Voldemort and pre-World-War-II backdrops give this film a nice time period to work with to gain a better understanding of what wizardry might look like in under significant historical circumstance.
I’d like to say “don your robes, raise your wands and accio your popcorn” about going to this movie, but really, the excitement I initially felt walking into the theater left after enduring what seemed like a cruciatus curse for two hours. The magic this film was supposed to bring was severely lacking and by the end, there’s an itch that needs to be scratched that this film couldn’t quite get. As I watched this story progress, my imagination played tricks on me, leading me to expect some form of grandiose spellcasting. In reality, letting my imagination run wild provided a better movie experience than actually sitting there and watching the film.
We find ourselves between storylines between Newt Scamander and Jacob Kowalski, Credence and Nagini, Tina, Queenie, Leta Lestrange and Theseus Scamander, and Grindelwald. If that number of different plotlines seems like too much, it shouldn’t be, but with how poorly this story was written, it is. As we jump from each story, bits and pieces of each are supposed to add up to make this overarching plot make sense when we come to the ending, but by the time the ending does come around, you’re too busy asking questions of your own to keep up with all the new information. If as much time was put into the story as was put into special effects, this would have been a very different movie. Don’t get me wrong, the special effects are to die for, there wasn’t a spell out of place that didn’t come out in full effect when cast. The new creatures featured throughout the film breathed new life into the setting, but without a reason for these flashy new beasts, we only have worldbuilding for the sake of worldbuilding. The visual effects become a crutch, distracting from the deteriorating story as time goes on.
From J.K. Rowling, we expect a better display of storytelling, being able to keep the strands of each story intertwined together consistently and without awkward entanglement. In this installment of the J.K. Rowling cinematic universe, we’re poorly strung along a series of intricate plot lines that only come together in an effort to say all the strings were tied together. Rowling pulled the equivalent of what Hermione did in “Chamber of Secrets” when she produced a botched polyjuice potion trying to turn into one of her classmates; we expected better results out of the parties involved.
With how stupefying the visual effects are, you’d expect that the battles would be the highlights of this film. Sadly, that isn’t the case. The intensity of battle that came with the first film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” was lost in this entry. The most exciting display of magic occurred in the first 10 minutes with Grindelwald’s escape (which is known already from the trailer). After that, magic is used for menial tasks or unexciting conflicts that are sprinkled throughout the movie. Some hostilities arise and a clash or two is required of our heroes, but they lack any stakes and emotional attachment to the characters involved. There’s not enough time spent on one plot line to want to care for these characters, and when suddenly we have an onscreen casualty, we move past it and just wonder how it adds to the story.
The best thing this movie offers is a journey back to the wizarding world we know and love, but because of its lack of substance, “Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald” just becomes a filler movie until the next Fantastic Beasts movie comes along years from now. Until then, we’re left with a disappointing prequel to the beloved series of “Harry Potter” we once knew and loved.
Verdict: Diehard Potterheads will go see this movie regardless of its quality; however, hardcore fans and casual viewers alike will find themselves disappointed by an abundance of questions and a lack of adequate answers.