The extended Harry Potter universe that has only begun to be explored has quite frequently been met with a difference of opinion on its existence in the first place. While some die-hard Potter fans have welcomed the continuation of storylines that dig deeper into the lore, others were concerned of the series being tarnished, having been satisfied with the conclusion of the original movie series with Deathly Hallows Part Two. But with the release in 2016 of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, quite a few of those nay-sayers got taken to task because of the reception the movie received from both a critical and monetary standpoint. New stories could be told that further flesh out the future world for Harry Potter and while it did satiate the thirst many followers have for continuing the series, it also proved to be a great place to start for those who are just getting into or would like to know more about this vaunted movie franchise. Hopes were high then as the latest installment in the series arrives in theaters in the form of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018, Warner Bros. Pictures, Directed by David Yates, Running Time 134 minutes). But a closer look at the film reveals if there is enough magic to entertain both a casual and hardcore audience.
Crimes of Grindelwald carries the series into France with the evil Grindelwald (played by Johnny Depp) having escaped imprisonment and is now forming his own alliance that will help him create his own wizard utopia. Out to attempt to thwart his plans is Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who still would rather tend to his magical beasts then be bothered with the politics and intentions of both dark and light magic but is convinced by Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) that he is the only one that can stop this evil collaboration from forming. Newt is tasked with not only the challenge of Grindelwald but to locate the powerful Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), who is searching for his own true identity as he makes the choice to become a hero or a villain. Much in the way of controversy has been made of the presence of Depp in the film given his real-life murky recent past. Not enough attention is given to Grindelwald in the film as a potential foil for both Scamander and Dumbledore, with a greater focus on his search for gathering troops instead. While Depp sometimes comes off as a subdued version of his Pirates of the Caribbean alter-ego Jack Sparrow, his character is not even close to being one of the biggest issues for the movie itself.
The movie itself falters because this feels virtually all the way through like it is nothing more than filler to balloon a smaller narrative into a full-blown five-story series. Newt, for all of his traveling and screen time does not get the opportunity to advance his character and the relationships built in the first movie get glossed over until each of them ultimately has to pick a side, sometimes without proper motivation and understanding that can leave audiences confused and overwhelmed at what director Yates is attempting to display on the screen due to uneven computer imagery and some of the worst editing seen in a high profile movie in quite some time. Jude Law’s performance as Dumbledore fails to impress as his presence in the film outlines his connection with Grindelwald and his personal reasons for not being able to confront him, which makes him an outsider with not a lot to do other than looking at his flashbacks through a mirror. The only character given a true opportunity to shine is Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz) but even the reasons why are ultimately made clear by the end of the movie. Much has also been said that for a Fantastic Beasts film, the assortment of actual creatures was surprisingly small and while that is true to an extent the movie itself has much larger issues and concerns that hamper the film even more that should have been addressed first.
For someone who is not a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them two years ago proved to be an enlightening that gave hope that I too could embrace the series and re-watch it with a newfound sense of enjoyment. But unfortunately, the anticipation of watching Crimes of Grindelwald quickly turned to disappointment as the movie looks to be nothing more than a speed bump in this stretched out five-part series with only the last fifteen minutes of the movie having any needed value for being watched. Fanatics of the series may relish a moment or two with some Easter Eggs nestled within that harkens on the future timeline but for casual audiences, this film does nothing to further interest into understanding the Harry Potter lore. While the first film did much to cast an enchanted spell over moviegoers Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald ultimately waves a wand that fizzles out with its lack of magical prowess.