Screenshot from Warner Bros. Pictures
Rating: 3/5 Stars
JR Rowling dominated theaters and bookstores for years with her multi-billion dollar book/film series “Harry Potter.” After 7 books, 8 films and a number of plays, she’s returned to the silver screen with a new series based off a lesser known character from the Wizarding world with the “Fantastic Beasts” series that started 2 years ago with the incredibly successful (both critically and financially) “Fantastic Beasts and where to find them.” Now the story is continuing with the expansion of the surprise revealed villain at the end of the last film; taking the story, the audience and the characters to new heights with new beasts, new dangers and new surprises to expand and integrate the Potter universe even further.
While being transported, fanatic dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) escapes custody and starts a campaign to gather like-minded wizards to his wicked cause and change the world to his own twisted vision of wizard supremacy. To aid in the battle, a young Professor Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists the services of former student Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to gather his resources and allies to search across the globe for Grindelwald since Dumbledore is unable to and find out what he’s up to. As Grindelwald rises to power though, friends are put against one another as sides are drawn and the wizarding world is reaching dangerously close to an all-out war.
One of the things I admired about the first film was its impeccable ability to simplify such a complex and vast literary universe into a film that lays everything out easily enough so that anyone can enjoy this film without needing to know extensive background details or Easter eggs from the previous Harry Potter films. “Crimes of Grindelwald” however has taken its foot off the break and is punching it straight into sensory overload land and doesn’t hit the brakes again until the credits roll. Even if you have seen all the other Potter films and know the first “Beasts” movie inside and out, “Crimes” literally bombards you with numerous plot lines and developments from the moment it starts and it can be really overwhelming and confusing.
The simplicity of the first film is long forgotten and just about every plotline, major and minor, is accelerated to frantic new levels; so much so you can’t even be sure what’s going on. For example, things were left awkward between lovers-at-first sight Queenie and Jacob. But by this film’s explanation, everything got wrapped up (but not really) off screen and then there’s a new complication in their relationship that ends just as soon as it begins and I’m just like: WHOA wait a minute, did I miss something? And there are far too many moments just like that throughout the movie and it just keeps throwing too much at you at once.
Redmayne, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterson, and the entire returning cast fill their roles, as well as the plot, allows them to; though Redmayne expectedly gets the most time despite the hectic pacing issues. The real upside to this film among all its flaws are the two big name new faces to our ultimate sources of good and evil: Jude Law as Dumbledore and Johnny Depp as Grindlewald. Law is a charming, dashing Dumbledore who easily channels the sage wisdom and warmth the character is known for. If Scamander ever gets sidelined, Law’s Dumbledore has enough charisma and energy to pull off taking up the lead. Depp may be flopping with Sparrow and other heroic roles but he’s been crushing it as villains lately; first in “Murder on the Orient Express” and now Grindelwald. He’s cold, creepy, unnerving and is a unique villain for the series.
Overall, I cannot begin to tell you how soundly my hopes were dashed to see “Crimes of Grindelwald” turn into such a frantic mess after the first film sold everything so easily and gracefully. The cast is still amazing, the effects are stellar and I truly do admire the larger storyline at work here and how it’s expanding more and more with each film. But there’s too much going on and too little time to catch up on everything and I just wish it didn’t rush everything and trample over so many good storylines while hastily cramming in too many new ones to count. Here’s hoping volume 3 of “Fantastic Beasts” shapes up into a better animal act.