While there are many excellent aspects of the second ‘Fantastic Beasts’ film, they often become lost within an overly-complex plot line. A collaborative effort between director David Yates and now-screenwriter J.K. Rowling, the film seems to be a culmination of two creative voices battling to have their say. It manages to simultaneously create a jam-packed film, without achieving very much in terms of story progression.
Set in the 1920s, audiences are re-introduced to magical zoologist Newt Scamander as he battles to save a wizarding world descending into chaos. Portrayed by Eddie Redmayne, he is as awkwardly loveable as before.
He is joined again by Tina (Katherine Waterston), Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Credence (Ezra Miller). Dan Fogler also returns as bumbling ‘No-Maj’ (non-magical being) Jacob Kowalski, providing some necessary comic relief.
This installment also introduces us to a wealth of new characters such as Newt Scamander’s brooding brother Theseus (Callum Turner), former love interest Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz) and cursed circus performer Nagini (Claudia Kim).
Each character has an elaborate backstory intertwined with complex relationships, but not enough screen time to effectively portray this. It creates the sense that they were added simply as plot-fillers to an already crammed narrative, confusing the audience further. This is an incredible shame as each of the actors are excellent in their respective roles.
Jude Law is also introduced as a fresh-faced Albus Dumbledore, playing the role with subtle charm and sophistication. However, he is incredibly underused and lost amongst the abundance of characters featured in the film. One performance worth mentioning is Johnny Depp’s depiction of evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald.
Unlike Ralph Fiennes’ characterisation of Voldemort in the previous ‘Harry Potter’ films, Depp isn’t immediately villainous and unlikable. Instead, he is charming and calculated as he coerces the pure-blooded wizarding world into reigning over the ‘No-Majs’. However, the audience see flashes of his true evil, such as one particularly harrowing scene where he murders an entire family simply to move into their home. Depp avoids becoming a caricature villain, but rather a cunning antihero worth fearing.
Although stylistically the film can be accused of appearing quite grey, this works incredibly well with the tone of the plot. Director David Yates succeeds in abandoning the warmth of early ‘Harry Potter’ films, creating a darker mood for ‘Crimes of Grindelwald’ that feels far more adult.
Set mainly in Paris, scenes are filled with stunning architecture and sleek backdrops. Costume designer Colleen Atwood deserves particular praise for the elegant film wardrobe. However, style, unfortunately, doesn’t overrule substance and fails to save a convoluted plot.
It is seemingly Rowling’s attachment to the story which causes its downfall. The plot makes desperate attempts to connect to the ‘Harry Potter’ series, creating needless relations and dredging up forgotten characters. While some fans might enjoy this, others may view ‘Crimes of Grindelwald’ as a dilution of the original franchise. Disappointing plot line aside, the film still has its magical moments with an abundance of excellent actors. Ultimately, ‘Crimes of Grindelwald’ is a worthwhile watch – at least until the final installment arrives.