Wizard Newt Scamander finds himself wrapped up in an adventure that pits him and his friends against the evil Grindelwald.
In a world where sequels and spinoffs make more than any original idea ever will, it is no surprise to me that this film got made. If you were to have told me five years ago that J.K. Rowling was writing a film series about the rise of Grindelwald (Johnny Depp, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (2007)) I probably would’ve gotten ecstatic, but now I’m almost wishing she would’ve just stuck to writing the stories and let someone else do the screenplays. As much as I love the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, this is a movie that felt more like a quick cash grab and fan service for its incredibly loyal fan base. So much happened in this film that it felt as if Rowling took the notes she had for a planned four hundred-page novel, and crammed all of that into a two hour and fifteen minute film. Its just so dense that it forgets to be fun. There are too many characters to remember, and so many needless subplots are shoved into every minute of the film that it feels bloated with scene after scene of expositional dialogue- explaining who certain people were and what their importance was....
As much as I liked the look of this film, and I liked seeing certain things I loved back on screen again, I felt like the story was using those things I loved (Hogwarts, glimpses of Quidditch, Dumbledore (Jude Law, “Vox Lux” (2018)), the sorcerer’s stone and Nicolas Flamel…) to try to trick me into liking a story that I really, at the end of the day, couldn’t have cared less about. These new characters have nothing on the characters of Harry Potter, and while I still enjoy the world, this world first set up in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016), does not feel as magical or fantastical as the one we were first introduced to in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (2001). Part of the reason that the world of Harry Potter work was that we saw it through the eyes of Harry as he experienced it for the first time, so he was able to explain things to the viewer as we experienced things for the first time with him. In this film, the movie sort of expects us to know all about the wizarding world already; it expects us to have knowledge of certain magical creatures, characters that have weigh on further storylines, and it also expects us to remember everything about the film prior. Watching this film felt like more work than it was worth honestly. I was bored instead of thrilled. The magic had gone out of the magic in this world, for me.
As far as acting goes, everyone did a fine job. Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything” (2014)) is perfectly awkward as Newt Scamander, and Katherine Waterston (“Inherent Vice” (2014)) is fine as his sidekick… I’m still not sure why Dan Fogler’s (“Kung Fu Panda” (2008)) is given so much screen time; his character seems utterly pointless to me, particularly in this movie. I feel like he’s supposed to be the comic relief, but he’s just not funny. As far as production design goes, everything looked great. As far as CGI, it was flawless. The biggest issue this film had was just trying to tackle too many things at once and it made me care about none of it.
It’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s not good enough that I can say with certainty I’ll ever go back. As for the planned third entry to the “Fantastic Beasts” series, I’m sure I’ll see it… but not in theaters… this movie has proved to me that I don’t in any way need to anticipate these films. They are for the diehard Harry Potter fans, and while I used to belong to that group, my love of Harry Potter hasn’t blinded me enough that I can’t tell a good product from a bad one.
Side Note: How did I just now realize Nicholas Flamel was played by Brontis Jodorowsky (“El Topo”)?
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