FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD
Jude V Obscurial
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.