If The Crimes of Grindlewald, the sequel to a prequel in the Wizarding World Universe is any indication, then the Fantastic Beasts series might be to Harry Potter what the Hobbit trilogy was to Lord of the Rings: Another proverbial cash cow stretched too thin. That’s the last thing I wanted to say about this mostly unmagical follow-up.
We pick up the action immediately after the first film with Johnny Depp’s Gellert Grindlewald being taken from New York to London where he will be put in Azkaban Prison. Of course, knowing the character, he pulls off an elaborate escape and returns to the world of witches and wizards to do (What else?) take over.
As for Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), he’s lost his traveling rights due to the events of the first film, but he’s offered a chance to redeem himself through finding a child named Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) who may be the last surviving heir of a group of wizards.
In addition to this plot thread, we’re also introduced to a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) who in this film is the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. He assists Newt on his quest while potentially having some kind of connection to Grindlewald although it’s not quite fully explained how or why. Nothing is fully explained, but more o that in a moment.
I will be fair to The Crimes of Grindlewald in the respects that Depp, Law, and Redmayne do good work and the movie does have some visual invention that is reminiscent of the Potter series. There’s even some Easter eggs thrown in for the rabid fans of the books and movies, but that’s not enough to save it from its shortcomings.
The movie is surrounded by a story that is overly convoluted from start to finish. I bet I could give anybody a test over this movie and they would flunk half of it. I had very little idea on who was doing what to whom or how or why. Also, when we’re not treated to the complicated plot, we get too many backstories and a romance or two that feels straight out of a cheesy soap opera.
It pains me to give it a negative review, but considering the high marks the Potter series gave us, this franchise should deliver more and better. Hopefully, all the narrative chaos introduced in this one will be solved in FB 3.
In the meantime, this movie’s spell backfired.
(Rated PG-13 for some sequences of fantasy action.)