Crimes Against Fantasy
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is directed by David Yates and written by J.K. Rowling. Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, and Johnny Depp all return to reprise their roles from Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Newcomers to the cast include Zoe Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, Kevin Guthrie, and Jude Law.
There is no reason on God's green Earth for The Crimes of Grindelwald to be as much of a mess as it is. In a film whose title suggests a lot of thrilling action and emotional weight - and the possibility of getting one of the best "Harry Potter" films, if we want to call it that - there are hardly any crimes committed, and there is nowhere near enough Grindelwald as there should be. Never mind that this is the first of what will likely end up be a series of follow-ups to the perfectly charming Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them; what should be minded is that this is the first legitimately bad entry into J.K. Rowling's fantasy franchise, made all the more egregious due to the fact that Rowling herself wrote the screenplay. Seriously, like, how did this happen? How could a film, taking place in a fantasy universe that has brought love and joy to millions of people worldwide, have such a disregard for story, characters, and entertainment?
All of the troubles present in The Crimes of Grindelwald trace their way back to the screenplay, and I might have been a little more forgiving had the film also come with enough dazzling action and let me drive home thinking to myself, "well, the writing wasn't very good, but at least it had some entertaining moments." But I barely got any dazzling action, or at least any cool sequences involving a series of magical creatures or colorful-looking spells. Look, I'm not asking for Mission: Impossible stunt work or Mad Max: Fury Road when I'm watching a movie related to Harry Potter in some way. It's just that in a world with so much magical wonder, and the fact that this movie is called The Crimes of Grindelwald, meaning some wicked deeds are going to happen, there are clear expectations for David Yates and co. to give me more bang for my buck. Instead, the movie slogs through a difficult 134 minutes that only delivers a few magical sparks here and there, making its story needlessly complicated and doing so with the sole ambition of setting up future sequels.
The film opens in 1927, when the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Depp) escapes captivity from the Magical Congress of the United States of America. Three months after Grindelwald's escape, Newt Scamander (Redmayne) is attempting to restore his right to travel abroad. Newt meets with the British Ministry of Magic, where he comes across his old Hogwarts friend Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz), who is currently engaged to his brother Theseus (Callum Turner). The Ministry agrees to give Newt his travel rights back, but only if he agrees to help them track down Credence Barebone, who survived the events of the previous film and is now hanging out somewhere in Paris. It turns out that Grindelwald is also searching for Credence, and thus, a massive search begins for the Obscurial boy. Along the way, Newt reunites with Tina Goldstein (Waterston), her sister Queenie (Sudol), and his old friend and now-fiance to Queenie, Jacob Kowalski (Fogler).
- What makes the lack of Grindelwald appearances all the more upsetting is the fact that Johnny Depp is giving his all in the role, no Jack Sparrow goofiness nor any cartoon villain antics. For as little as the script provides him, Depp makes the most out of his limited screen time, and I must say, he looks especially good with his blonde-ish, silver colored hair and two different sized eyeballs (I can't be the only one who notices this). Depp succeeds in making Grindelwald very down to Earth, giving us the good impression that Grindelwald will avoid ever being a power-obsessed wizard who knows every spell known to man. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that Depp is trying, and I mean really freaking trying. That's more than I can say about several of the others in the cast.
- What the hell was going through J.K. Rowling's mind while she was writing the screenplay? The final result is a script that is as lazy as it is nonsensical, and if I had to choose which was worse, it would undoubtedly be the laziness. The film glosses over several key parts of the first Fantastc Beasts, providing some of the worst explanations imaginable for why certain things in that film ended up not mattering at all. Kowalski retaining his memories from New York? Oh, well, it's because the city-wide Obliviation only affected bad memories. Credence still being alive? Well, uh, all those spells cast at him ended up not really killing him. Are you kidding me? Like, WHAT. THE. HELL? Sure, there were flaws in the Harry Potter films here and there, but I don't recall any of them ever being this lazy with their explanations.
As for the nonsensical-ness, the characters just go here and there, and Rowling struggles to come up with a cohesive way to make all the plot lines fit together. This does not at all feel like plots A-Z progressing and converging into one narrative whole; this is a bunch of different situations being thrown together in a pot, and no one can figure out what to do with any of them afterwards. Things only get worse when it becomes clear that there are no real stakes involved, allowing the balloon that is boredom to blow up more and more as the laborious 134 minutes drag on. Boring. That's one of the very last things you'd expect from a Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts film.
Was I expecting a masterpiece with The Crimes of Grindelwald? No. Was I expecting an entertaining and emotionally involving follow-up to the first Fantastic Beasts, because that's what the title, The Crimes of Grindelwald, implies? You bet I was. The sad truth, however, is that The Crimes of Grindelwald does not at all live up to its name, offering barely any entertainment value, barely any emotional weight, and barely any promise that the rest of this prequel series will recover and be worthy of forever having a connection to the Harry Potter legacy. I don't want to say that J.K. Rowling is losing her touch. Thing is, when you're now at film number ten, you can't keep expecting for all of them to be smash hits. Other lengthy franchises like Star Wars and Alien are proof that you're going to have a few misses here and there. The Crimes of Grindelwald is indeed a miss: a messy, boring, lazy miss that serves as a crime to all of the Harry Potter world and all of its charming, magical lore.
Recommend? No. Even if you loved Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, pass on this one.
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