The first Fantastic Beasts movie was surprisingly engaging considering it was a movie based on a fictional textbook from Harry Potter’s universe. Eddie Redmayne made for a sweet-tempered, introverted hero who was basically interested in the care and study of all manner of magical creatures.
So, the sequel The Crimes of Gindelwald really had my interest. Would the next part be as enjoyable as the first?
In a word, nope.
Picking up about six months after the events of the first movie, we see the infamous wizard villain Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) escape custody and go back to his personal mission that seems to be one of wizard domination over regular people. Meanwhile, Newt Scamander is offered a new job with the English Ministry of Magic under his Auror brother Theseus that would allow Newt to once again have permission to leave the country, but Newt prefers his neutrality in all things wizard-related. After a visit from American witch Queenie Goldstein and her Muggle romantic interest Jacob, Newt learns his own love interest Tina is in Paris, a place Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) had hinted Newt would want to go. And it turns out Grindelwald is also there for his own purposes.
Now, the casting of Depp is bound to be problematic given his reputation as an actor and as a person of late, but he didn’t give a particularly eccentric performance with most of the character’s overall weirdness confined to his general appearance. Law isn’t bad either for his fairly limited screentime. Redmayne, on the other hand, seems to be mostly repeating himself from the first movie though we do see some hints of new development given his relationship with his more normal brother Theseus. So, what went wrong?
Basically, the movie tries to do too much. For all that the title is Fantastic Beasts, there don’t seem to be too many of them, nor are any of them particularly vital to the plot for the most part. Most of this movie seems to be simple set up for the next one, something I can’t say most of the Harry Potter movies ever did as most of them did seem to have a single story to tell over the course of the movie while advancing the overall plot at the same time. This one is just there to act as a bridge to the next movie, and it shows.
Beyond that, there is so. Much. Plot. Not only is there Newt’s issues with Theseus and Newt’s relationship with Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson), but there’s relationship issues between Jacob and Queenie, Grindelwald’s surprisingly complicated reasoning for wanting to do something about the Muggles (and something I’ve always wondered about truth be told), issues involving the Lestrange family, Dumbledore’s backstory, and whatever else J.K. Rowling threw into her screenplay. Director David Yates also seemed to linger on “cool” magical effects that had little to do with the actual story of the movie, such that scenes seemed padded out for no good reason other than to show off some magical effects. The end result is an overcrowded mess of a movie with a few moments that may be too intense for kids and sensitive adults. 6.5 out of 10 sequel set-ups.