‘The Crimes of Grindelwald’ does not impress

November 27, 2018 — by Manasi Garg

“The Crimes of Grindelwald,” released on Nov. 16, should have been full of the spellbinding sorcery of J.K. Rowling’s storytelling. But in the second installment of the “Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them” movie series, despite the portrayal of four wizarding cities and the blossoming cast of new wizards, there isn’t much magic.

The first movie, “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them,” released in 2016, had a lackluster plot, but my hopes were high for the second movie, which promised new characters and an introduction to the dark wizard Grindelwald (played by Johnny Depp) who was briefly introduced in the original Harry Potter series as Albus Dumbledore’s best friend-turned-enemy.

Technically, the movie delivers on those promises, but it is  overstuffed with subplots and filler scenes, so the punches to my gut I was expecting were underwhelming.

It starts with a bang, a few months after where the first movie left off — in an action-packed wand duel with the American Magical Congress, who have him in criminal custody, which Grindelwald eventually wins and escapes. Unfortunately, things only go downhill from there.

“The Crimes of Grindelwald” was supposed to follow Obscurial Credence Barebones and the people tracking him down through Europe, each for their own reasons. The first “Fantastic Beasts” movie focuses on Credence and Scamander’s attempt to save Credence from the dark obscurus trapped inside Credence, but in “Crimes of Grindelwald” Credence’s importance is heavily downplayed — we are told that he can alter the course of the impending wizard battle between Grindelwald’s evil forces and the magical ministries around the world, but urgency is never conveyed in the movie. Newt Scamander, the main character played by Eddie Redmayne, is distracted by his love interest, auror Tina Goldstein played by Katherine Waterston, and even Grindelwald seems apathetic.

The other goal of the movie was to introduce the audience to Grindelwald’s evil, but this too, falls flat. Yes, he kills some people. But when compared to the Harry Potter world’s original villain, Voldemort, who genuinely incited fear, Grindelwald comes off as more of a silver-tongued dictator. And we never even learn what Grindelwald’s true crimes are, despite the movie’s title.

Additionally, the added subplots of characters such as Leta Lestrange dilute the movie’s excitement and seem irrelevant until the very end, when everything ties in together. And even then, learning the truth isn’t very significant. The whole movie feels like a setup for the next movie, down to the lukewarm twists and turns and weak cliffhanger.

That’s not to say the movie is entirely lacking, as I genuinely did enjoy it. Redmayne’s portrayal of Newt Scamander is fantastic, and he makes the character even more lovable than in the first movie.

The movie also contains more nods to the canon material of the original Harry Potter series, introducing Maledictus Nagini, Voldemort’s snake, while she is human, and hinting at Dumbledore’s past.

The technical artistry behind this film is also gorgeous, from small details on a woman’s shoe to the imaginative French Ministry of Magic. The graphics, much like the first movie, are spellbinding.

In truth, most die-hard fans of Harry Potter like myself will still like the “Fantastic Beasts” series simply because it returns us to the magical world J.K. Rowling created. However, a less invested general audience probably won’t be too interested in the remaining three movies of this series set to release in the future.

If you want to see “The Crimes of Grindelwald,” don’t bother going to the movies. Save some money and watch it a few months from now in the comfort of your own home, where you can binge watch the original Harry Potter series right afterwards as a reminder of the true magic of Rowling’s world at its best.

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