Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) returns to the screen in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald from director David Yates & Warner Bros. Pictures. The second installment of the “Fantastic Beasts” series opens with our primary antagonist Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) escaping from prison and recruiting a team of minions for his own evil doings. The key to his victory is Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) a powerful magical young adult who is an obscurial. In the world of “Fantastic Beats,” obscurials are children who attempt to repress their magical abilities.
Newt’s former love interest Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson) has moved up in the ranks of the Magical Congress of the United States of America and is on her own mission to find Credence. Tina’s sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) is in a relationship with Jacob Kowalski (Dan Folger), who has regained his memory after the events of the first film. Newt’s former professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) soon recruits Newt to stop Grindelwald’s plans. Along the way, Newt reunites with his brother Theseus (Callum Turner) who is currently engaged to Newt’s first love Leta (Zoë Kravitz).
Director David Yates who returns to direct his fifth film in the Wizarding World franchise is still in fine form and knows the material quite well. The primary cast is quite good in particular Eddie Redmayne as Newt and Jude Law as Dumbledore. The duo has a great teacher/student bond in the film, and I wanted to see more of that. I was also fond of the loving relationship between Queenie and Jacob Kowalski. My favorite performance in the film would have to be Zoë Kravitz as Leta. Kravitz plays a tortured soul quite well and I would love to see her as a femme fatale.
However, the follow up to the vastly superior Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a jumbled mess. Johnny Depp was one of the film’s fundamental acting problems for me. When the first film ended, I can recall applauding at Depp’s cameo; I was optimistic about this expansion in the sequel. Depp, who usually is quite good, gives a mundane performance as Gellert Grindelwald. Given the character of Grindelwald, is a powerful dark wizard, I expected more from Depp’s performance.
In addition to Depp’s lackluster performance, J.K. Rowling’s script collapses with too many ideas. The initial problem with the screenplay is there are too many characters. While I did enjoy some of the acting work of the heroes, if they were not in the film, the effect would have been the same. If Rowling’s script took the route of focusing on Gellert Grindelwald’s hunt for Credence, then the final product could’ve been stronger.
Fanatics of the Wizarding world may find something to like in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, however, mainstream audiences should steer clear. I have never considered myself a fan of J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World franchise. While I have seen, all of the Harry Potter films and was quite fond of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the follow up just did not work for me.
FINAL GRADE: C-