‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ gave me a headache. The second installment of J.K. Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts” series set as a prequel to the “Harry Potter” series stacks up a whole lot of plot in its two hours and fourteen minute running time. The film boasts of a larger world with a host of different characters, and each one gets a healthy dose of story time that bloats the film and makes it feel scattered.
To note of the many things that are happening: there is the hunt for the villain, Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), by Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who is sent by a young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law); there is the complicated and rather underdeveloped love triangle (quartet?) between Newt, his brother Theseus (Callum Turner), Leta Lestrange (Zoey Kravitz), and Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston); the love story of the muggle Jacob (Dan Fogler) and Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol); the story of Credence Barebones (Ezra Miller), who is at the center of both Grindelwald’s and Dumbledore’s battle; the Ministry of Magic’s hunt for Newt and Grindelwald and their appeal to Dumbledore to join the fray; and Grindelwald’s movements to amass an army of wizards to conquer the non-wizarding world.
And that’s just some of the plot lines that have been opened up, as new characters are also introduced with their own possible plot lines for future installments such as Newt’s assistant Bunty (Victoria Yeates), Nagini (Claudia Kim), and Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam), who is connected to Credence’s story.
There are so many stories that ‘Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald’ throws up into the air and it attempts to juggle them altogether, and the narrative feels scattered and bloated. There are backstories for many of these characters that slows down the pacing of the main plotline, and there’s no clear focus for us to truly be invested in any one character’s arc. Like the child seated beside me in the cinema exclaimed to his mother at the end of the film, “there’s so much going on!” I really felt that. My head hurt from just trying to catch up.
I haven’t even mentioned the fantastic beasts that are introduced in the film nor the ones that make a comeback and how they each have their little moments as well.
Writer Rowling and director David Yates are no stranger to this world and this genre and they tack on an endless supply of moments of mystical flair. Yes, the magical elements of this world are quite a visual treat, but it happens in almost every scene that it feels like an assault. There are so many peaks and not enough lows that it is tiring. Especially because the film has to resort to quite a bit of exposition.
It’s the curse (pun intended) of a film that is meant to bridge towards a bigger film. There are many surprises at the end of the film and the pieces are all set for a bigger sequel, but all this movements makes ‘Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald’ unmanageable and hefty, narrative-wise.
Alison Sudol remains as the most interesting performance and character while Katherine Waterston, who I felt was the weakest link in the first movie, has stepped up and come to her own, though she has very little to do in this film. Redmayne carries the film, but Newt’s arc is hardly felt as he remains the same character until the very end.
It’s a bit frustrating because there are many things to enjoy, but it’s just so packed with plot and exposition and dramatic peaks that it’s hard to focus and catch up. But the film has done its job and set up the pieces for a bigger sequel; one that, hopefully, is more straightforward and focused.