Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald

Rating

Director

David Yates

Screenplay

J.K. Rowling

Length

2h 14m

Starring

Eddie Redmayne, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Kevin Guthrie, Carmen Ejogo, Zoe Kravitz, Callum Turner, Ezra Miller, Claudia Kim

MPAA Rating

PG-13 for some sequences of fantasy action

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Soundtrack

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Source Material

Review

No one would have guessed that when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone released in 1997 that it would spawn a worldwide phenomenon the size of which rivals the Lord of the Rings and the Marvel universes. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the latest feature film to take us into the Roaring Twenties past, this time with mixed results.

With the promise of presenting a history of the wizarding world of Harry Potter by exploring the events that lead to the downfall of Voldemort’s villainous predecessor Grindelwald, J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. have done an incredible amount of world building with Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, providing plenty of new background information, new characters, and new plotlines that are sure to fill the remaining three films in the pentalogy.

Not much was known about Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) before this new series of films except that he was well known for writing the definitive book on mystical creatures called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. That title became that of the first film with the Fantastic Beasts name carrying forward to the remaining features. This second film moves the action out of New York City and into the magical streets of Paris where Newt and company are trying to find Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) before Grindelwald can get his clutches on him. As the film unfolds, Newt and his muggle companion Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) set off to Paris to find their respective paramours, sisters Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Queenie (Alison Sudol) Goldstein respectively, and potentially thwart Grindelwald’s schemes while on their quest.

The performances are largely solid, as can always be expected from this franchise. The narrative is a bit convoluted at times, but there are lots of plot points that must be set up now for future films in the series much like the now-complete Harry Potter universe. It’s more difficult to see those connections now because we don’t have future books as a frame of reference for our thoughts and speculations. While it may feel complex and overabundant now, once all of the films have been released, we may see the fruits of Rowling’s labors grow to full ripeness.

As always, the production is mesmerizing including the glorious effects, the fascinating setting and costumes, and marvelous renderings of creatures heretofore unseen in the Potter universe. Director David Yates does a lot with the material and his evocation of tone and pacing is still solid. While there are some scenes that don’t quite feel fully formed, some of that may be a result of the requisite world building and narrative seeding that must be done in these early outings.

Getting sequels to match up to the quality and potential of the original film is a challenge many films cannot accomplish. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald does the absolute best it can and while the end result isn’t quite as compelling as it should have been, there’s still plenty to recommend in it.

Review Written

March 14, 2019

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