The second chapter in the new Wizarding World franchise takes an eerie yet puzzling turn for the worst as an unnecessary table-setter for future films. Character actions and the plot attempt to mimic the the deep and defined plot structure of past Harry Potter films, but it turns into head scratcher after head scratcher.
For a movie with “Grindelwald” in the title, he sure isn’t seen as much as he was marketed, which isn’t to say the performance of Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) is lacking, but aside from a few callbacks from his past, a few chilling remarks and one speech I don’t believe he stole the show as the title might lead one to believe. What the film tries to drive home is that his influence is ever-growing and though he’s the focal point of discussion throughout, his absence for the most part remains all that I remember.
After a captivating opening sequence, the following hour drags and no matter how many beautiful visuals and how many beasts are showcased. It can’t excuse the fact that it takes so long just to gather the mainstays together from the first film (along with those little bits and pieces of Grindelwald), and jumping from storyline to storyline in the process. Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) appears to receive some well-needed development with the introduction of his brother Theseus (Callum Turner) and both of their relationships with new addition Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz), who had potential, but served little purpose. Newt himself remains a quiet character, as well as not much real character development until the final act. Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and Queenie Goldstein’s (Alison Sudol) magical chemistry from the first installment couldn’t even leave me somewhat captivated come the halfway point of the film. Albus Dumbledore’s (Jude Law) portrayal is well-casted, charismatic and brought scenes to life in an otherwise dark narrative, but like Grindelwald, not enough screen time.
What returned my attention to the plot was some of the flashback scenes that give slight context to what transpires and unfortunately it isn’t long till the confusing storylines return and I’ve lost my understanding of the events unfolding. Credence (Ezra Miller) is another focal point of the film to learn who he his, and where he fits into this complicated narrative. His decisions and connections (one of many) to other characters lead to a confusing and abrupt conclusion failing to properly back why these decisions were made; one critical scene followed by another without giving the audience and chance to absorb it and/or contemplate why. Certain supporting characters were thrown in only to play a part in the twist which drew me further and further away from the film; it had me waiting and hoping that something extraordinary would occur as some sort of payoff but it never happens.
If you enjoyed the charm and color of Fantastic Beasts first installment, it’s basically diminished here, and not in a good and mature way as the later Potter films did. What should have been time to properly develop characters and their motives, as well as delve further into who Gellert Grindelwald is, turns into a messy narrative that unraveled itself poorly. It’s by no means a franchise-killer, however The Crimes Of Grindelwald not only failed in identity, but is a seemingly horrible reminder that there are still three films to explain most if not all that this film should have explained.
But hey, they’re still three more on the way right?