When it comes to the Harry Potter series, I am one of the many proud individuals who has been obsessively following every movie and book from the start. Needless to say, I’ve followed the Fantastic Beasts series with just as much fervor. So when Nov. 15 rolled around, I purchased the first available ticket for the earliest showtime of The Crimes of Grindelwald and prepared to witness the magic all over again. However, the second Fantastic Beasts film did not entirely meet my expectations. While the acting and performances were spectacular, the storyline and side plots were confusing at best. I went to see the film twice before writing this review, and I still found myself struggling to grasp the true narrative of the film.
One of the most irritating aspects of the movie is that it has nothing to do with fantastic beasts or where one may find them. The plot revolves around Grindelwald’s involvement with the mysterious boy Credence, who harnesses the extreme power of an Obscurial. Naturally, Newt Scamander is recruited by the one and only Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to find Credence before Grindelwald has the opportunity to influence him. It seems that Dumbledore has always loved recruiting younger, less experienced wizards to do the dirty work (sorry, Harry). In this way, Newt’s involvement with the story feels very forced. He was expelled from Hogwarts his third year and has very little experience with defense and attack spells. Furthermore, his expertise lies with magical beasts. While he has dealt with Obscurials, he is hardly capable of holding his own against Grindelwald, the most dangerous wizard of all time. Additionally, there is an entire subplot involving the Lestrange family that served no importance or necessity to the movie’s story. Don’t get me wrong, I love learning more about the Pureblood families in the wizarding world, but I felt that this storyline was very out of place.
While watching the film, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was how non-book readers felt during the last two Harry Potter films. JK Rowling loves to complicate storylines, and these are often hard to portray on the big screen. Therefore, with no book to refer to, I struggled to understand so many new concepts and spells in just two hours. Even after my second viewing, I felt like I had watched a sequel without ever seeing the first. I felt lost. Now, that isn’t to say the movie isn’t well done. Jude Law could not be more perfect as Dumbledore. His mannerisms and behaviors reflect that of Richard Harris’s and Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore in the original Harry Potter films. And I don’t need to praise Johnny Depp’s work, as he is always exemplary on the big screen. The special effects were mesmerizing, and, in this way, the film was quite fun. I just wish the writers would not have complicated the film so much. However, the third, fourth and fifth films are approved and on their way, so I’m excited to see how the director plans to go from here.