Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) Cover

Out of all of the Crimes of Grindelwald, and there are a lot, the one I find most unforgivable is just how boring the film is. Nothing this mediocre and lazy should also be this long. There’s no reason for it.

If you’re not familiar, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the second film in a series spun off of the Harry Potter franchise. The new series chronicles the adventures of Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne) as he chases down fantastical mythological creatures while a race war slowly builds up in the wizarding world between purebloods, half-bloods, and whatever new charming new slur for muggles that will feel fresh for a movie or two.

While the first movie had quite a bit of entertaining play between Redmayne’s portrayal of Newt and the elaborate zoological additions to the Potterverse, its larger world-building didn’t work. Given that we’re going to get 5 of these movies I had hoped that we’d get through 3 of them before they turned hard into the cheaply written story centered around off-brand Voldermort. How wrong I was.

The Crimes of Grindelwald dives hard into the race-war lite plot, spinning the rather generic background characters from the first movie front and center. The charming mythology building menagerie moments are relegated to a mere B plot as the writing gets ridiculously convoluted fast with people you barely cared about during the first movie.

In addition to forcing the B plot from the first movie into the foreground without a narrative to carry it, The Crimes of Grindelwald lacks any motivation to hold the plot together. The vast majority of movement through the story is achieved with Deus Ex Machina to poor effect. This method for plot progression isn’t new to the Potterverse, and it has been used to entertaining effect in the other films, but in the absence of an effective story the lack of connective tissue between the character actions and the plot progression stands out like a sore thumb.

When you primarily move characters around with plot devices or Deus Ex Machina it makes plot construction easier because you don’t have to care about why an event or action happens. That’s the entire beauty of that kind of lazy writing. Given that the majority of the film’s progression comes from literal magic, it is particularly amazing how convoluted the plot gets. If the writers don’t care about how anything happens, why is it so complicated?

I kid you not, the story is so over-complicated that it has to pause two-thirds of the way through to give 20 minutes of exposition about what is going on and who the characters are. It’s mind-blowing. Partly because the exposition still isn’t quite enough to figure out what’s going on.

None of the acting is distractingly bad, but none of it is particularly good. I certainly can’t say that I enjoy Johnny Depp’s portrayal of David Bowie. Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander and Jude Law as Dumbledore are the most entertaining performances.

While the issues run deep through the heart of The Crimes of Grindelwald, some may still enjoy the beautiful visuals. The cinematography is excellent at capturing a world that is rich with texture. The frames are well blocked and the visuals are imaginatively creative. Even the action is well crafted and entertaining even though it is cartoonish and lacks the grounding for it to feel suspenseful. I think a lot of viewers will be able to be entertained at least on a superficial level.

I’d also be remiss to give credit to the universe for having some charm that is inherited. A few of the characters are endearing and the writers haven’t been able to completely bleed the appeal out of the setting. There is still some joy to be had in returning to Hogwarts, even if it is very little.

Though I think there are many who may be able to enjoy The Crimes of Grindelwald for at least one ride, I think the Amortentia will wear off quickly. For all its faults, the most damning is that it is boring. That’s a fault that I do not believe even casual audiences will be able to forgive.

Final Verdict:The worst of its crimes is that it is just boring.