Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Jude Law, Zoë Kravitz, Ezra Miller, Johnny Depp
Directed by: David Yates
Written by: J.K. Rowling
Studio: Warner Bros.
Run Time: 2hr, 14 min
If you found yourself enchanted by the first installment of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), you may wonder what is missing as you leave the theatre after having seen its sequel. To put it simply, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald, while lovely to look at and full of Easter eggs for Harry Potter fans, is little more than a cinematic stepping stone for the climactic stories to come.
It is no surprise that the opening of the film documented the clever and magical escape of evil wizard, Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), since we witnessed his capture in the final act of the last movie. After that, we quickly follow up with Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who is stranded in London at the mercy of the Ministry of Magic. Having lost his travel freedoms after his New York antics, Newt finds comfort in his magical creature charges while still finding himself preoccupied with thoughts of Tina (Katherine Waterston). Meanwhile, we learn that Credence (Ezra Miller) is still alive and being sought by everyone from Tina and the Ministry, to Grindelwald, to Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). From there, the magical Scooby gang reassembles and seeks to find some answers.
The biggest flaw with Crimes of Grindelwald is its lack of direction. As charming as the characters are, it is, at times, impossible to distinguish where the plot is going. While the opening and title imply that this will be a story of Newt and friends on the tail of Grindelwald, the story spins on its ears and delves into character studies of Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) and Credence. This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that Miller's Credence was the weakest link of the first film and the franchise would have benefited from his having disappeared. Meanwhile, we feel as though we've missed a ton of story with Jacob (Dan Fogler) and Queenie (Alison Sudol) as they are thrust into the Grindelwald plot with no real motivation. There are some decent character realizations for the Wizarding World and Harry Potter universe, but none that serve as anything other than gearing us up for what is to come. You'll wish you had gotten more from those you were made to care so much about in the previous adventure.
Despite the film's shortcomings, fans will delight in the appearance of multiple characters from the past..err.. future, not to mention some more delightful mythical creatures from the mind of J. K. Rowling. Johnny Depp steps into the role of the villain most refreshingly and Jude Law's Dumbledore seemed to gleam with the inspiration of a young Richard Harris. The beautiful musical score of James Newton Howard, which made us well up with tears in the first film, teases us without the emotional payoff we hope for (again, this is due to storytelling faults, not the composer's). Of course, there are still some lovely landscapes and hidden magical dimensions to enjoy, as well.
All in all, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald will not be a waste of your money at all. That said, it will surely not flutter around in your senses the way the first one did. Perhaps fondness will grow on a repeat viewing, I guess all that's left to do is wait for the next chapter.