I must preface this review by saying that I am not a ‘Potterhead’. I like the original Potter films, I think they’re perfectly fine. I was NOT, however, a fan of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the first prequel in J. K. Rowling’s ‘Wizarding World’. I found it boring, lacking in story and favouring style very much over substance. It’s with surprise that I announce this latest film is actually even worse, and highlights a lot of major issues in Hollywood’s Franchise-Saturated market.
The word ‘messy’ doesn’t even begin to describe this film. Attempting to tell at least six individual stories is an impossible task for most filmmakers, and for David Yates it was an unachievable goal. The film splits its countless characters into pairs as they each set off on a separate narrative that is terribly weaved together, despite best efforts. Not only this, but because this is the middle film in a franchise, none of the stories are resolved, and instead are left hanging ready to be hap-hazardly picked up in the next one. This is not television people, this is film. Tell the full story!
I also have a serious issue with J. K. Rowling as a screenwriter. She clearly has an great mind for creating worlds and characters, but they work when she has 600+ pages to work with. With just two hours to play around, she attempts to cram so much into the script; comedy, drama, love, loss etc. and none of it works. Several key emotional moments left me feeling stone cold, and this highlights how badly the events and characters are set up.
I have found myself getting increasingly less interested in the magical world of the Potter Universe. The amount of magic that is on show is ridiculous. All the infinite space inside briefcases and buildings, the huge CGI creatures and the powerful spells. It all contributes to a major lowering of the stakes. All powerful beings mean there is very little threat, and accompanying that with the fact that this is a prequel, and we know some characters (cough Dumbledore cough) survive, there is very little to progress the plot in terms of thrills or surprises.
In terms of performances, there is only one stand out performance, and it’s from the actor the Potter fans tried to remove. Johnny Depp is fantastic as Grindelwald, an all-powerful wizard with David Bowie contacts and an incredibly Donald Trump-like disposition. His arc for the film is to persuade the wizarding world to rebel against the ‘muggles’ (people with no magic) because they are too different to live alongside.
On a slightly less positive note, Eddie Redmayne is at his absolute worst in this film, his mumbled delivery, annoying smirk and quaffed hair becoming evermore irritating as the narrative progresses. Luckily, as in the first film, his character actually has zero effect on the plot, so that’s something at least… Equally, if you’re looking forward to seeing Jude Law as Dumbledore, don’t bother. Despite being one of the key members of the press tour, and an actor of outstanding caliber, his role is utterly useless in the film and is reduced to a few null scenes.
The film is subtitled ‘The Crimes of Grindlewald’. This, however, is a marketing mistake, as the film should actually be called ‘The Crimes of Warner Bros. executives who plan on fleecing the Harry Potter fan-base out of every dollar they have’. This film is so utterly lazy, forgetting about adding a story-arc and instead just setting up another three prequels. Every time the plot hits another dizzying low, it tries to distract the fan-base: “Oh look, its Hogwarts and the Harry Potter theme”; “Hehe, they just mentioned a character from the other films”; “Ooo, he just used the spell that that other guy once used”. It’s an outrageous attempt to create nostalgia in the fan-base. All they’ll be fondly remembering is how good the films used to be.
Overall, this film should be summed up as a diabolically boring car crash that just wants to claim as much insurance money as possible. I’m deeply disheartened to say that J. K. Rowling announced that there will be five films in this franchise, meaning there are another three more to sit through. I hope to god that they manage to improve on their horrendous start, otherwise this franchise could be one of the worst in Hollywood.