WARNING: this post discusses major spoilers from Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Don't read on if you haven't seen it yet. #ProtectTheSecrets
It's been in cinemas less than a week and already Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has been torn to shreds by fans and critics, with some claiming the second film in the series has ruined the franchise, which is meant to extend to another three movies. And many of the complaints leveled at the movie are valid.
Here is what I had to say about the movie in the review that appears in this week's WHO magazine:
Well, that escalated quickly. The first Fantastic Beasts film was an often lighthearted romp as lover of magical creatures Newt Scamander (Redmayne) scrambled to recover the weird and wonderful animals that had escaped in New York. But just as the Harry Potter series took a sharp turn for the dark when Cedric Diggory (Robert Pattinson) found himself on the wrong end of Voldemort’s (Ralph Fiennes) wand, so too has this spin-off franchise suddenly become much more bleak. And confusing.
The storyline of this second film in an intended series of five is so stuffed with characters, subplots, red herrings, twists and reveals that it’s often hard to keep up. And much of it feels like mastermind J.K. Rowling is putting all the pieces in place for upcoming sequels rather than telling a coherent story in and of itself.
The main focus of The Crimes of Grindelwald is the effort by various parties, including Newt, acting on behalf of Dumbledore (Law), and auror Tina (Katherine Waterston), to track down the titular dark wizard (a restrained Depp) following his escape from the US Ministry of Magic. As for Grindelwald, he’s intent on finding Credence (Ezra Miller) for reasons we won’t go into. Is it a mudded mess? Yes. Is it still worth rushing out to see? Of course. 3.5 stars
A week on and it's obvious my review was a lot more restrained than some critics have been. But I stand by it. Any new entry into the World of Wizarding universe is worth rushing out to see, if only because everyone will be talking about it. And if you're able to sit back and enjoy the ride, The Crimes of Grindelwald offers plenty of entertainment - magical action, the never-ending battle between good and evil and, well, a number of fantastic beasts. The big-budget blockbuster is the type of thing it's still worth seeing on the big screen ... even if it makes no sense.
And that's still my biggest problem with the new Fantastic Beasts. Things just seem to happen without really being explained properly. Grindelwald wants Credence for reasons unknown until the very end of the movie when it is revealed the latter is - SPOILER ALERT - a long-long Dumbledore called Aurelius who might be able to take down Albus. Instead, Grindelwald spends most of the film not actually going after Credence directly, drifting aimlessly around Paris for a couple of hours of screentime with the suggestion that he wanted Credence to come to him of his own accord. Guess we have to wait for the third film for any progression there.
While the hunt for Credence is theoretically the main narrative thrust of the film, most of the movie concerns itself with a number of other storylines and characters, including the first film's main player, Newt, who mostly bumbles along while two separate romantic sub plots swirl around him. I think we're supposed to be rooting for Newt and Tina, but the spark that existed between them has all but gone out, and in this film is overshadowed by a poorly explained love triangle between Newt, his previously unseen brother, Theseus (Callum Turner), and the latter's fiancée, Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz), who is in some way related to bonkers Harry Potter character Bellatrix (Helena Bonham Carter).
Leta has a lot of backstory. Besides her time at Hogwarts and apparent bond with Newt - not that you'd know it given the zero chemistry between the characters - there's the big, complicated reveal about her brother who drowned at sea following a baby swap enacted by a peeved Leta. It would be easier to care about any of that if we'd ever heard of Leta before, but it's a lot of story to put on a brand new character. And then she gets killed off anyway.
There are countless other complaints to make about The Crimes of Grindelwald - would Queenie (Alison Sudol) really become a Nazi-style follower of Grindelwald just so she can marry Jacob (Dan Fogler)? Was McGonagall (Fiona Glascott) even alive in 1927, when this movie is set? Is there any point to the inclusion of Nagini (Claudia Kim) and Flamel (Brontis Jodorowsky) beyond nodding to the Harry Potter series? - but it's also classic Rowling.
The Harry Potter books followed a similar structure with a whole lot of stuff happening - some important, some frivolous - and gradually building up to a big showdown at the end. With that in mind, The Crimes of Grindelwald feels like chapters 11 to 20 of a 50-chapter book, and maybe in the context of all five films it will make more sense and feel more effective than it does now. Problem is: with the types of reviews this film has had, will people be prepared to wait until the whole Fantastic Beasts saga has played out or will they just give up now?