Directed by: David Yates
Runtime: 134 minutes
In 2011, the worldwide magical phenomenon that was Harry Potter came to a close with its final instalment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Although the story had already come to an end with the publication of the final book four years prior, the release of the final film felt more like the true end to the era of Potter. J.K. Rowling stated that she wouldn’t be writing any more Potter material (aside from everything on Pottermore, I guess) and the world moved on, looking for its next obsession. This did not last long at all, as in 2016, we were graced by a new instalment in the now aptly titled Wizarding World, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. While not reigniting an entirely new love, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has quenched the Wizarding World fans’ thirst for new content and, two years later, we have received the film’s follow-up, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald in what is slated to be a five… or six… film series. I don’t really know—they keep changing the number—but money probably has a lot to do with it.
Now, not to worry, this is going to be a spoiler free review. I’ve got to uphold that hashtag #ProtectTheSecrets, as with the hype surrounding the spoilers in this film, I’m afraid that one of the lackeys from Warner Bros. will come to my house and rip up my books. The Crimes of Grindelwald is a darker, more adult look into the wizarding world. There is a multitude of serious plot-threads that weave their way through the film’s narrative. This more adult take on the world and the problems our characters can face is definitely to the film’s advantage, but the film does suffer from an over-bloating of storylines. There are so many different plots and subplots running through the film that, at times, it can feel overwhelming and confusing to keep track of everything that is going on. There are obvious pacing issues throughout, and with the introduction of new characters and fleshing out of old ones, the film tends to bounce around quite a lot. There are many times when it needs to stay with its characters longer. However, when the film decides to take its time, those moments shine. The first instalment in the series suffered from similar pacing issues, and it seems as though J.K. Rowling’s transition from author to screenwriter hasn’t been as fluid as she had hoped.
The film’s editing also surfaces as a problem on a few occasions. During some of the action scenes, particularly the first, it can be hard to make out what’s going on due to the frantic pacing, cinematic sweeps, and dark atmosphere. There are two very distinct points during the film where it feels as if crucial scenes are missing, and that their inclusion would have solved a few problems I encountered following the characters’ motivations and actions. While these are not major issues, they did niggle at me throughout my viewing. The CGI throughout was a little hit and miss; the monsters’ designs were done exceptionally well, but the action scenes had a tendency to come across looking like massive light shows, and this made them a little less engaging.
Similar to the first flick, the strongest element of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was in its characters. The introduction of Jude Law’s Dumbledore was handled well, and while the romantic element between himself and Grindelwald could have been made more explicit, it is touched on with very delicate hands. Most of the side characters are fleshed out well enough, but with the sheer amount, some are left a little to the wayside. Of the core cast, Katherine Waterston’s Tina Goldstein, in particular, received little growth or screen time, and continues to come across as likeable yet plain. Johnny Depp provides one of his strongest performances in recent years as the charming yet menacing Grindelwald. Queenie and Jacob’s relationship is further explored and they hold one of the most mature storylines in the film, and while this is handled with great precision, it could have been explored a little further. The introduction of Newt Scamander’s Brother Theseus (played by Callum Turner) had me worried going into the film, but his inclusion was pulled off in an excellent fashion.
Finally, we come to Newt. If you have seen my video essay, you would know that I was a little worried going into the film that Newt’s character would be butchered. Thankfully, he is handled very well—we see how strong of a wizard he really is, along with his love and care for all the magical creatures around him. We see the development of the human connections he continually has to foster, and his scenes remain compelling. His relationships with both his brother, Theseus, and Dumbledore are the standouts here, and I am looking forward to seeing them develop further in future films. My only complaint is that I feel Newt was a tad neglected at times—with the cast growing so wide, time with the lead became scarce.
In the end, although the cast and plot felt bloated at times, the film kept me engaged throughout thanks to its well-executed character work. Eddie Redmayne once again captivated me as Newt Scamander, and the more adult take on this previously teenage-centred world was enjoyable to see. The series definitely needs a little more work to find its feet fully; one wonders if, in a parallel universe, J.K. had written these as books before having them adapted into screenplays, we would have be spared some of the series’ current problems. For now, we have a solid flick with some great characters that will excite and entertain Wizarding World fans, and if not, will at least give them something to talk about.