Two years ago, ‘Fantastic beasts and where to find them’ premiered and revelled in the glory of potter fans for being a fun film that exists in the same universe as the Potter books without altering any of the original detail and characters. Loved by fans, acclaimed by the critics and a box office hit somehow obviously meant there were going to be four more films for this new storyline.
The crimes of Grindelwald is the second movie in this saga and builds off from where the last movie ended. The movie starts with Grindelwald escaping prison in a(supposedly) high adrenaline chase sequence. He then vanishes to Europe in search of Credence, the child who audiences clearly thought was dead by the end of the last movie. The protagonist, Newt, is equally surprised to hear the same through ministry folk who ask him to become an auror to search and kill the boy. He refuses the job but ends up in Paris on Dumbledore’s orders to protect the boy. But more importantly to reunite with Tina, his romantic interest, and his friends from previous films; Queenie and Jacob.
Credence has meanwhile been searching for his family and befriends Nagini, a maledictus who in time will turn into a snake permanently. Credence follows a trail laid out to him by Grindelwald to discover his roots. He is led to believe that he is the long-lost brother of Leta Lestrange and if it is proved true he would be the last living male of the Lestrange family.
There are a lot of things that happen in between which just lengthen the runtime. Say perhaps, a giant creature running wild in the city or introduction of a (Step?) half-brother of Leta Lestrange who made an unbreakable vow to kill the Lestrange boy.
But all of that just seems like a filler since everything just culminates to the climax which reveals the true nature and origins of the boy. Though the ending is supposed to be shocking, it just turns out to be mildly startling and mostly confusing. There is a huge fight at the end between Grindelwald and everyone else in the film after which Credence’s identity is revealed (to the audience).
The movie has a lot going on but none of that seems serious or joyous to the audience. It is unnecessarily complicated with too many plot points happening in a very short span of time, leaving the audiences flustered. There do not seem to be any stakes in the film since audiences are not invested in any of the characters. People from the first film also do not really feel the same since they have lesser screen time and some of them act out of character (read Queenie).
This movie suffers from being uncertain about itself. It feels neither a movie about Fantastic beasts nor about the crimes of Grindelwald. It keeps shifting the tone of the film to accommodate both these narratives and both end up feeling forced. Every scene with the beasts seems like a justification to the title when in fact the beasts are not something that help the plot. They end up feeling like side quests in a video game.
Another issue with the film is the introduction of characters from the original Harry potter books. Their inclusion in the movie seem to hurt the fans more than engage them since they have been altered to fit.
For e.g. Voldemort’s prized pet, Nagini, is introduced in this movie as a real person rather than a malicious snake from the previous ones. The problem does not lie in the change but in the non-explanation of this phenomenon of a blood curse. The problem also lies in the fact that she was only used as a romantic interest with no notable scenes or dialogues. Had she been given a stronger role, her presence and change in form may have been justified.
There is another recurring problem in the movie which is the unexplainable magic that goes on. Hardly any of the spells are said out aloud and none of the magic or irregular phenomena are explained in the movie. This is a stark contrast to both the books and the previous movies which had some or the other character describe the magic, or the spell used. This seems like a small detail but, in this world of magic, an essential one which usually packs that punch of awe for the fans.
Overall, the movie feels only as a set-up to the forthcoming films and doesn’t really stand out alone. The pacing is haphazard, and the run time is unjustified. In the end the film just lacks the same magical or nostalgic feeling that the audience finds familiar with the Potter films.