An extensive exercise in exposition. ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ serves, more than anything, to set up the continuation of the series.
It’s been two years since ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them‘ opened in cinemas. As a film it was a fun introduction to a new era of J.K Rowling’s ‘wizarding world’. The film was entertaining enough to maintain viewers interests, but ultimately lacked real substance. A New York setting provided a rich and vibrant backdrop to the events that unravelled.
Many of the same elements are revisited for ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’, the second of five planned instalments of the series.
Eddie Redmayne reprises his role as protagonist Newt Scamander. His portrayal of the character is as magical as ever. His evasive demeanour, nervous outward disposition and tendency to never to make eye contact endears him as an unlikely, but loveable hero.
This time around the action takes place in Paris and London, but unlike the first film in the series, the locations fail to add to the atmosphere of the film in nearly the same way. The grandeur of either city pales by the wayside. Fine if the plot is more character focussed.
And it is. As an aside to the main plot there are numerous relationships to engage with. Romantically there’s Newt’s awkward affection for Tina (Katherine Waterston). Tina’s sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) and her forbidden love for Jacob (Dan Fogler), Newt’s unofficial side-kick. Each returning from the first film as a likeable gang, undoubtedly thrust into the middle of whatever drama happens to be taking place.
More prominently, there’s the allusion to the past relationship between Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Grindelwald that serves to prevent the two from fighting. It’s for this reason that Dumbledore must convince Newt to help him track down the no-gooder.
Johnny Depp plays the titular antagonist with a staunch English accent. An archetypal Hollywood villain whose rallying cry is a desire for dominance over the ‘no-maj’ or ‘muggle’ population. Believing that the key to succeeding in his plan lies in the actions of Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), Grindelwald sets about triggering a series of events that will lead to the success of his ultimate goal.
And therein lies the problem. This sequel relies on extensive exposition without providing significant conclusion. It’s like a two and a quarter hour set-up for the next film.
Despite a final revelation that feels very much like an obvious red herring, ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ falls short of satisfying its audience. Not enough beasts, not enough substance and nowhere near as fun as the first time around. Eddie Redmayne remains superb.
‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ is in cinemas everywhere now.