- Movie Rating -

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

| November 15, 2018

When all was said and done, after all of the portents and secrets had been revealed and the overelaborate special effects employed for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald had ceased, I sat back in my seat trying to figure out how to best describe this movie in one word.  Wandering through the vast dictionary in my head, I fell hopelessly upon the word: ‘joyless’.

That’s the only way I can really describe this movie.  There is very little in the way of joy or fun or life or true magic here.  It’s all signs of doom, sad and tragic histories and the threat of an oncoming war that will eradicate most of the Earth’s population.  It’s also very frustrating.  This is the second part of a five-part movie series that is likely to end around, I don’t know, 2025.  The problem is, I already don’t care about the story being told.  I am not looking forward to being teased with it for three more movies. Is the sour tone of this movie indicative of what I am expected to endure until then?

This movie, like that last one, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, is a surprisingly empty experience.  There is a potentially important story being set up here but since it clearly leads into the events of the Harry Potter stories, the trajectory is already laid out for us.  We already know that Grindelwald won’t destroy humanity, so why does the movie hang us on that note as a cliffhanger?  It doesn’t matter.  In fact, much of this movie doesn’t matter.  I never got the feeling that the characters thought it mattered.  They speak in that strange plot-speak dialogue wherein nearly every line is only a furtherment of the plot.  None of it pops with any color or life.  It’s all just aimed at getting to the next movie.

The movie opens with some business from before.  The evil Gellart Grindelwald (a bone-white Johnny Depp) is in Wizard prison and is about to be transferred from America back to London.  And, well – spoiler alert – he escapes and tries to put into motion an elaborate plan to wipe out all non-magical creatures on Earth (that’s us) so that the world can be returned unobtrusively to the pure blood wizards.  That seems simple enough, but the movie is weighed down by a tedious plot about a kid name Credence (Ezra Miller) who apparently has some secret family lineage that is important to Grindelwald.  Let’s put it this way, it was more important to him than it was to me.

Meanwhile, our . . . hero (?!) Newt Scmander (Eddie Redmayne) is forbidden to travel because of the events of the last movie, but he needs to be able to travel because young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) needs him to find Grindelwald and rescue Credence because . . . I’ll admit, I’m not really sure.  The plot is so cumbersome and over-complicated that it’s kind of hard to follow.  There’s some issue with the kid’s family lines and how that ties in with what Grindelwald wants to do, and somehow that is supposed to matter.  All I got from it was that we hear familiar names from the Harry Potter series and we are supposed to put the two series together.  Frankly, I didn’t care.  I’ve already seen the best part of this story and this isn’t it.

J.K. Rowling, who is credited as the chief screenwriter here is a master of universe-building.  Her great gift is her ability to pack her books with a massive population of characters and make each of them interesting.  Because they are so well-defined, the narratives are very clean and clear of purpose.  She is not, alas, a great screenwriter.  Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald suffers under the weight of her attempts to use the same literary process that she uses in her books.  The result is a movie that often feels episodic with motivations that aren’t entirely clear.  This process also falls on the dialogue which is mostly made up of exposition.  This is a very talky movie which wouldn’t be a problem if we have some idea of who the characters are.  Characters pop in and out of the story and we aren’t 100% sure how they relate to anything.  Often this movie feels like an episode in the middle of a Netflix series, one in which you have to wait two or three years to see the next one. The third act of this movie feels incomplete, like it should have come before a big climax, or maybe at the opening of the next one.

Occasionally, there are set-pieces that do work.  I was particularly dazzled by a twirling, rotating library and I was captivated by a Chinese dragon called Zouwu.  Plus, there are these security guard cats with white glowing eyes that I thought were pretty neat.  Those moments were kind of magical all by themselves but they are isolated.  I kept wishing that Rowling would lessen the importance of the muggle holocaust and just focus on the magic of the world that she has created.  This is a wonderful and magical world to behold.  I don’t need another madman plot.  Let’s put it this way, I’m more interested in the fantastic beasts than I am in the crimes of Grindelwald.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2018) View IMDB Filed in: Kids