FAN­TAS­TIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDEL­WALD

Jude V Ob­scu­rial

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The wiz­ard­ing hero heads to France but is this se­quel ooh la la or oh non non?

re­leased OUT NOW! 12a | 134 min­utes Di­rec­tor david Yates Cast eddie red­mayne, Kather­ine Wa­ter­ston, ezra Miller, Jude law, Johnny depp, ali­son su­dol

JK Rowl­ing’s Wiz­ard­ing World is a re­mark­able ac­com­plish­ment, up there with the MCU and the Star Wars galaxy in terms of imag­i­na­tion and mind-bog­gling com­plex­ity. So it’s al­most a given that The Crimes Of Grindel­wald is packed with spell­bind­ing crea­tures, mag­i­cal back­drops and clever Easter eggs that add plenty to the saga’s lore.

The prob­lem is that this sec­ond in­stal­ment of Rowl­ing’s Pot­ter pre­quel doesn’t re­ally have a story to speak of. In­stead it’s a bridg­ing de­vice, whose main func­tion seems to be set­ting up the third en­try in a five-movie arc, rather bet­ter at world-build­ing than nar­ra­tive.

It’s all down­hill af­ter an ex­hil­a­rat­ing air­borne open­ing over New York, where the in­car­cer­ated Gellert Grindel­wald (Johnny Depp) makes an au­da­cious es­cape from wizard prison. It’s a giddy, ver­tig­i­nous se­quence that feels like the be­gin­ning of a rip-roar­ing ad­ven­ture that – sadly – never ar­rives, as the pace slows to a plod.

In­deed, you can’t help wish­ing that more of the vis­ual ef­fects bud­get had been di­rected to­wards set-pieces. Yes, the stun­ningly recre­ated 1920s Paris is ev­ery bit as spell­bind­ing as NYC in the first Fan­tas­tic Beasts, but the film’s lack­ing in the sort of jaw-drop­ping ac­tion that any block­buster needs.

It’s also sur­pris­ingly light on gen­uine peril – cer­tainly noth­ing that can’t be es­caped by the quick flick of a wand. We know Grindel­wald is bad news not so much be­cause of any­thing he does as for what we’re told, with the “crimes” of the ti­tle very much off-screen mis­de­meanours. With Depp (whose cast­ing has proved some­what con­tro­ver­sial among the fan­base) play­ing him more as charis­matic pop­ulist politi­cian than con­ven­tional Big Bad, there’s pre­cious lit­tle hint of why he was the worst wizard of them all un­til Volde­mort came along.

The film func­tions bet­ter if viewed as a (very) talky char­ac­ter piece, al­beit one that has way too many im­por­tant roles jostling for screen time: Nagini, the woman cursed to one day be­come Volde­mort’s snake fa­mil­iar, is painfully un­der­used, as is Newt Sca­man­der’s Auror brother Th­e­seus; Ezra Miller, mean­while,

It’s all down­hill af­ter the air­borne open­ing

does the best he can, what with Ob­scu­rial Cre­dence be­ing as much McGuf­fin as man.

This time out, Newt (Eddie Red­mayne, still play­ing the part as a set of ner­vous tics rather than an ac­tual char­ac­ter) is dis­patched to Paris to find Grindel­wald and Cre­dence, which con­ve­niently al­lows him to team up once more with Amer­i­can Auror Tina Gold­stein (Kather­ine Wa­ter­ston). Tina’s mind-read­ing sis­ter Quee­nie (Ali­son Su­dol) is also in Europe with her Mug­gle boyfriend Ja­cob (Dan Fogler), while Newt’s old school friend Leta Les­trange be­comes one point on a pos­si­ble love tri­an­gle with the Sca­man­ders.

Played by Zoë Kravitz, Leta’s one of the two stand­outs in the movie, a com­plex, nu­anced char­ac­ter strug­gling with a dark past and im­pos­si­ble-to-fathom mo­tives. The other is Jude Law, who makes the role of the young Al­bus Dum­ble­dore his own. If the older Dum­ble­dore was at times an all-know­ing Yoda ci­pher, this in­car­na­tion is a wizard at the height of his powers, whose in­trigu­ing his­tory with Grindel­wald feels like it could be­come the story’s driving force.

But even that’s sub­servient to the ap­par­ent main goal: rev­e­la­tions about the wider wiz­ard­ing world. To be fair, Rowl­ing has al­ways been good at mak­ing ex­po­si­tion and in­fo­dumps riv­et­ing, and the fi­nal act’s bomb­shells are big enough to change the way you view the

Pot­ter stories. It also sets up plenty of ques­tions for Fan­tas­tic Beasts 3 and beyond – now all Rowl­ing needs to do is come up with a de­cent story. Richard Ed­wards

nagini’s name is in­spired by the naga, snake-like crea­tures from in­done­sian mythol­ogy – some are half hu­man.

“Right, so where’s the Eif­fel Tower?”

She didn’t re­alise they were star­ring in a mu­si­cal.

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