Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is gloriously bad, but if you care about the secrets of the original Rowling’s saga, you should watch it anyway.
Watching the yet another instalment in a spin-off series that probably nobody really wanted constantly feels like comparing two brothers: the oldest, who gets easily past high-school, university and gets a job and the younger one who tries so hard to find its place into the world, not by copying the sibling but by reinventing itself into something new. More often than not, these attempts fail miserably.
The Crimes of Grindelwald is an unfortunate follow-up to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them doomed to perform critically really bad, just as its previous instalment. And just as the first in a predicted five-parts saga, it is projected for a $250m global debut, compared to $220m for the last one.
Where the previous was a funny yet world-building experience in a 20s version of the Harry Potter world, The Crimes of Grindelwald yet plays again as the table-setting chapter without giving anything relevant away to its audience.
It is a movie so focused on creating expectations and ideas for future bigger threats, that accidentally undoes most of the character developments of the first one, completely forgets to tell a self-contained story and for these reasons, it feels like everything and nothing really happened in 2 hours and 15 minutes of wizardry footage.
Directed by long-time friend David Yates and written by God-herself J.K. Rowling, the sequel is clearly intended to be a movie focused on the wrath of the Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald following his arrest at the end of the first film, at the expense of MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America) and its British and French counterparts.
The start is a thrilling one, as the wizard escape prison in a scene so well crafted and entertaining that it is a shame the rest just doesn’t keep up. We meet with what’s left of the previous cast with few nice add-ons. Johnny Depp and Jude Law absolutely steal the scene in the very few scenes they actually have in the entire movie. Their chemistry is palpable even though they never really meet.
Jude Law specifically in the portrayal of a younger Albus Dumbledore is majestic and Johnny Depp makes Grindelwald not only a believable villain but also a likeable one: his reasons are far from being the Hitler-like genocidal dictator that inspired the character of Voldemort. And Grindelwald doesn’t seem to be driven by personal matters but rather than the genuine love he feels for the magical community over the No-Maj, or muggles.
The rest of the supporting cast is extremely passive at best and eloquently exponential at worst. Dan Fogler’s Jacob and Alison Sudol’s Queenie are invisible and very badly used in comparison to the previous film and Katherine Waterston’s Tina Goldstein is dramatically reduced as Newt Scamader’s love interest.
The movie spends most of its second and third act struggling with a sustainable pace and looking for character’s backgrounds that nobody’s really interested and nobody asked for. Few plot twits are eventually revealed, but the real question is: has anybody really asked for them?
Eventually, it is all a shame and a tragic sequel; in one of the most fascinating cinematic worlds, The Crimes of Grindelwald miserably fails at what the Harry Potter series was good at: character building over world building.
Whereas the first three movies of the Harry Potter saga spent their time building the chemistry between the three main characters that we all loved and only got its hands dirty in the fourth instalment (The Goblet of Fire), The Crimes of Grindelwald wants to skip to the juicy part completely forgetting about giving time to the characters to build their special places in the audience’s hearts.
Moreover, the series completely lacks that noir, dark style that is predominantly used in the Harry Potter saga. And it is a real shame, since the movie itself, thanks to today’s technology, looks gorgeous and has a few nice action sequences.
As in this review, Eddie Redmayne’s character is completely useless and in stops and starts unnecessary to the development of the story. I honestly do not believe that such misdirection can be rectified now that only three movies are left on the table.