‘Fantastic Beasts’ sequel falls short


The true crime of “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” was how it turned such a rhapsodic and emotional film franchise into something so soulless and convoluted.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is the second installment in the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise. During the first film, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the movie centers around two plots, the first revolving around Newt Scamander capturing his escaped magical beasts, and the second revolving around increased tensions between wizards and no-majs, America’s version of muggles, in 1920s New York City. What made “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” so fantastic was not the plot, however, but the characters and their interactions with one another. It was a heartfelt movie in every aspect of its making.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” takes the joy of the first film and bludgeons it with a stick.

During the second movie, Newt Scamander searches for Credence Barebone under the orders of Dumbledore. They believe Grindelwald, the villain in this movie, wants Credence to help him kill Dumbledore. To protect Credence from Grindelwald, Newt must travel to Paris to find Credence before it’s too late.

Whereas the best aspect of the first movie was its characters, this may be the weakest part in the second film. The movie has poor character development, giving audience members no reason to be invested in the protagonists. I couldn’t find it in myself to empathize with the new characters in this film.

Even worse, the movie fails to maintain well developed characters from the first film. The connections in the original film were simple but with enough emotional complexity to make them realistic. To further the plot in the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise, the creators of “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” twisted these connections until they were unrecognizable.

For example, in the first movie, Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein’s connection with one another did an excellent job of portraying their dichotomy as well as their similarities. In order to prevent further development in their characters, the creators formed an idiotic reason for why they are not currently together.

In the movie they are seperated because Goldstein read that Newt was getting married in a newspaper when in fact it was his brother who was getting married. I love drama between characters, but I wish that drama was from something less contrived.

Then there’s Jacob Kowalski, a no-maj, and his love Queenie Goldstein. They can’t get married because it’s illegal in America for them. In the beginning of the movie she enchants him, hoping he’ll go with her to England to get married because its more progressive there. This left a bad taste in my mouth because when he was not enchanted, they carried on like she hadn’t just ignored his right to consent to their marriage or not.

There was a day Johnny Depp used to be a great actor, but that day has passed, and nothing illustrates that more than his portrayal of Grindelwald. As a character, Grindelwald has the same intentions as Voldemort but with none of the qualities that made him such a memorable villain. He’s one-dimensional, badly acted, and about as intimidating as a rabbit.

Finally, there’s Credence. In the original film, Credence was an amazing character who was emotional, complex and a perfect villain for the film. In the second film, Ezra Miller who portrays Credence barely gets the time of day to shine. His plotline in this movie comes out of nowhere and destroys what made him such a strong character in the original film.

There are some upsides to the movie.

The beasts in the film are as adorable as ever. Each scene with them had me grinning from ear to ear and offered a nice distraction from the rest of the film. The movie introduced a new magical beast with a design similar to that of a dragon and a cat and I am in love.

The scenes are also shot beautifully. The way the cameras are used with the sets and the CGI created a magical and immersive experience into the world of “Fantastic Beasts” that left me gaping at times in awe.

The story is tedious and the characters are badly written, but I have full faith in the future of this series. “The Crimes of Grindelwald” may have been a bump in the road, but it was a necessary one. With the exposition and setup out of the way, the true story of these characters may begin.

If you’re a fan of the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise, I would recommend seeing this film but only so you are caught up when the next one comes out. It’s a lot of exposition tied in a pretty bow, but it isn’t a good film. The plot is weak and the characters are weaker. Ultimately, it forgets what made the first movie so loveable in the first place.