REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts - The Crimes of Grindelwald
Summing up the plot of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is like trying to sum up a plane crash, that caused an avalanche, that was swept up in a tornado. You can understand each element separately, but together, it boggles the mind.
It is a gordian knot of a film, nevertheless, I will try to give you the briefest of context.
6 months after the events of the first Fantastic Beasts, the weak plot reversal that was Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald escapes from American wizard prison.
Why? Because, duh doy, the bad guys ALWAYS escape from prison in a sequel. Smokey wizard battles will forever be cool. Even if they carry 0 emotional weight.
Anyway, Grindlewanda’s plan is to recruit Ezra Miller’s Credence to kill his only real rival: Dumbledore. THEN him and all his little friends will go on a giant wizard revolution the goals of which are very unclear, but like, super-duper evil… I guess.
Oh, by the way, if you’re thinking, “wait a smidge, wasn’t Ezra Miller killed in the last film?” He was, but he survived because that’s what you’re supposed to do in a sequel, and now he lives in a circus with Nagni.
Ya know, the snake from the last few Harry Potters? Ya know, THE SNAKE? Keep up people.
Oh, but now she’s a woman who is cursed to eventually become a snake for literally no reason.
Anyway, let’s get to the title character.
About 15 minutes into the film the British ministry of magic decides Newt Scamander is the perfect dude to go after Credence and stop Grindlewaltz. Newt says no because even in the first movie he didn’t want to kill Ezra and for some reason euthanization is literally the ONLY solution any government has to the existence of a magical child who has been abused. Instead, Newty meets up with Dumbledork who convinces our Hufflepuffian hero to travel illegally outside of England and help Credence before Grindlewalallawallawashington turns him to the dark side.
This throws Newt back on a collision course with his old American comrades who are all having their own separate problems.
SEVERAL OTHER NEW PLAYERS ARE INTRODUCED.
And yes, a few fantastic beasts are thrown in just so that the film’s namesake isn’t completely ignored.
Also everyone thinks Ezra Miller might be a long-lost member of the Lestrange family (as in Bellatrix) and that holds all KINDS of significance.
To take a group of underdeveloped characters, bring them together and split them up at random, while simultaneously trying to introduce 7 NEW characters, AND establish the main antagonist is…crazy. It just is.
Nobody gets enough screen time to have sensible motivations, past conflicts mean nothing in favor of setting up twist after meaningless twist, and every other beat is used for exposition. It’s not poorly paced as much as it is poorly conceived.
The stakes are the highest, grimmest, most atomically unnecessary (and a little disrespectful) that they’ve ever been. Any bit of fun or whimsy found in the first film’s tone is not just killed, it’s stabbed to death in front of its family. Take your chocolate frogs and drown them in the river because WW2 is coming and young lovers believe genocide is the answer.
The dimmest moments of light can be found in the visual work and an A+ performance from Eddie Redmayne, but no joke, I had to think for 20 minutes just to come up with a single positive thing to say about this movie. It is constantly breaking its own rules and simply refuses to capitalize on anything that charmed me in the original.
The Crimes of Grindelwald pushes an otherwise “good try” of a spin off into the same territory as Indiana Jones 4, Amazing Spiderman 2, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.