By Landon Hilst | Echo
Magic has struck the theaters with the newest entry into the world of Harry Potter.
"Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" is the sequel to "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," released in 2016. David Yates directs the wizards and witches of the wizarding world for the sixth time while J.K. Rowling herself wrote the script.
There are many things to like with the prequel series "Fantastic Beasts," but J.K. Rowling's script for "The Crimes of Grindelwald" is a mess, no way around it. There are so many story beats to keep track of that it becomes a chore to keep up with, leading to a jumbled final act. The first "Beasts" film had a far simpler story as well as an element of whimsy that worked very well. While seen here and there, "The Crimes of Grindelwald" has largely disregarded the whimsy for a much darker tone that feels like a step backward.
An impending war between No-Maj's and wizards is brewing in early '20s Europe. Having escaped capture from New York, Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) leads the charge to expose the wizarding community. It is up to Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), working closely with a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to put a stop to the radical sorcerer's plans.
Joining Newt are his New York acquaintances, Tina and Queenie Goldstein and Jacob Kowalski, a fan-favorite non-magical human embroiled in the wizarding world by accident. Additionally, Ezra Miller is back as Credence Barebone due to surviving his berserk Obscurial rampage in "Beasts."
This only covers half of the story J.K. Rowling stuffs into her bloated screenplay. A more focused story following the characters from the first film would have been much more effective in terms of story flow. Added plots such as the relationship between Newt's former flame and his brother, Theseus, as well the subplot with Credence should have taken a backseat to Newt Scamander and his friends overcoming Grindelwald. Sadly, the film forces our main protagonists, and the beasts themselves, to share the spotlight with less compelling characters.
But this is a Potterverse film afterall, and there are many fun callbacks sprinkled throughout the film to satisfy fans. There are good things in this movie, best of which comes in the form of Grindelwald and Dumbledore's relationship.
Law is an excellent young Albus Dumbledore. Subdued and delightfully arrogant, Law's performance is one of the brightest spots in the film. The history between the two wizards is interesting and adds depth to each character. Depp may have faced controversy for the role initially and while it isn't one of Depp's best performances, Grindelwald is effective as the franchises grand antagonist, with enough sinister flare to give Voldemort himself a run for his money.
New and old collide in "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald," resulting in a somewhat (Le)strange and confusing tale to prevent the impending war. But there is still magic to be had here as Newt and Jacob always have fun interactions and the epic magical battles stun as usual.
While films should largely be reviewed as a single entity, It's hard not to compare the strengths of "Fantastic Beasts: And Where to Find Them" to the obvious weaknesses of "The Crimes of Grindelwald." Heading out to theaters over the weekend to catch a showing is a must for fans of the Harry Potter universe, but general audiences may want to wait for the home release, with the luxury of rewinding to fully enjoy it.