Fantastic Beasts

"Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" is the latest installment in the Harry Potter spin-off series.

REVIEW

The “Fantastic Beasts” franchise came back into theaters this weekend, thrilling fans of the Harry Potter world. Sadly, “The Crimes of Grindelwald” is a lackluster, flat sequel.

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” left off with the protagonist, Newt Scamander, finally catching the franchise’s villain, Gellert Grindelwald. “Crimes of Grindelwald” picks up at the villain’s escape from prison.

Grindelwald wants to pair up with Credence Barebone, a young wizard whose loveless childhood gave him an Obscurus — an out-of-control, dark magic parasite. Grindelwald thinks the two tag-teaming can help him lead both the non-magic and magic world. It’s up to Newt and his trio to catch Credence before Grindelwald does.

Throughout the journey, more of Credence’s past is revealed — where he came from, his family and more.

The sequel begins to answer more questions left unanswered in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” but it has a strange plateau effect. At the beginning of the movie, it’s all high action with Grindelwald escaping prison. Then, it bounces back into the mundane life of Newt, as he grapples with his older brother and his love for Tina, an auror.

It’s stagnant for a bit, as the mystery of Credence’s life unfurls on screen. There’s not enough of a struggle for Credence’s decision at the end of the movie — between following along Grindelwald or Newt — to have the impact it should.

The camerawork style in the movie constantly changes before a shaky camera to make it seem more realistic, and a more fixed camera. At other points, the actor look directly in the camera in one-on-one conversations to show their facial expressions. While the intentions behind it make sense, it can at times cause some dissonance and take the viewer out of the plot of the movie.

The strongest part of the movie are the special effects and of course, the world itself. The magic unfolding on screen is exciting and fun. At the end is a great scene where the wizards fight Grindelwald. The spell they use — along with the effects — gives goosebumps with all the adrenaline packed into it.

For Potterheads, the Easter eggs will be especially exciting. When Newt visits Nicolas Flamel, you can see the Sorcerer’s Stone at one point in the background, hinting at what’s to come for Harry Potter. Characters like Nagini, a human woman who will eventually permanently become Voldemort’s snake horcrux, are also featured.

Though the Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore relationship gains more depth in this movie, it doesn’t do enough. J.K. Rowling said Dumbledore is gay, but it’s never been represented in the literature, and is only hinted at in this movie. It’s time for Rowling to give LGBTQ+ characters proper representation.

Johnny Depp is not a charismatic or fun villain by any means. There are multiple reasons why Depp should have been cut from the franchise, and any argument that he’s a good actor (spoiler: he isn’t) doesn’t make up for his involvement in the movie whatsoever.

There’s an interesting twist at the end of the movie, which hints at exciting future chapters in the franchise. But if anything, “The Crimes of Grindelwald” shows it’ll take a while to get there.

– Edited by Andrew Rosenthal 

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