Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald
by Hope Madden
People really miss Harry Potter.
Maybe they miss the romantic notion of outsiders among outsiders, or the oh-so-earnest world of good versus evil. J.K. Rowling enchanted a generation with a densely populated world of magic and mayhem and an awful lot of people long to go back. So many, in fact, that they will mostly settle for the sloppy bastard Fantastic Beast series.
It is still Rowling’s words, after all—the author pens the screenplays, inviting us back into that wizarding world, albeit about a generation or two earlier.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald picks up six months after its blandly likeable predecessor, 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Odd duck Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is banned from international travel by the Ministry of Magic. Grindewald (Johnny Depp) is in prison. Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller)—who conveniently survived what was clearly his death in the previous effort—wants to know who he is and where he belongs.
The second installment opens well, offering more vitality, thrill and sinister mayhem than you’ll find in its predecessor’s full 133 minutes.
Redmayne is as adorable as last time. Depp brings something seductively sinister to the role. And Rowling’s clear distaste for leaders who bang the drum for racial supremacy and fear mongering is both understandable and nicely executed.
David Yates returns to direct his sixth Potter-verse flick. He finds opportunities for the visual flourish that was the only true strength of the first Fantastic Beasts film, but manages far stronger narrative momentum this time around.
All of which really only leads to the frustration of realizing at the 134-minute mark that this film doesn’t end. In fact, the last scene is basically the beginning of the movie. The 130- minutes previous basically amounts to exposition that sets up the next film.
Which is funny, since the previous entire film amounts to little more than a preface to an actual narrative.
Characters are quirky, wardrobe is glorious, Ezra Miller broods well—all of which is a lot of what we’ve already seen. What Grindewald doesn’t offer is anything new, or any reason to care.