Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

The Plot:

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) remains unable to travel abroad due to limits set by the Ministry of Magic.

When rumors abound that Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), a young man with strange powers, has surfaced in Paris, Newt escapes the prying eyes of the Ministry, heading to Paris to find Credence before Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp).

Grindelwald knows that the only person powerful enough to defeat his arch rival Albus Dumbeldore (Jude Law) is Credence. If Grindelwald’s plan is enacted, muggles will become endangered and enslaved.

With the help of Ministry investigator Tina (Katherine Waterston), muggle Jacob (Dan Fogler) and the lovable Queenie (Alison Sudol), Newt must find Credence or face the wrath of both The Ministry and Grindelwald.

Kent’s Take:

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is the second chapter in the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise.

As stated in the title, there are indeed plenty of fantastic beasts, action galore, plenty of wand-play and a darker, more menacing tone. However, this film, as with its predecessor, still has a disconnect with its audience.

J.K. Rowling must be an animal lover for the creatures in this film take center stage. From dragons to swamp demons and everything outside the imagination, this world is totally alien. That is both a boon and a bane for this Wizarding World. The beauty and wonder is resplendent as we follow Newt and his “monster handling,” but as much as this film is scintillating, this alien world also keeps viewers at arm’s length.

In the “Harry Potter” films we learned about magic, the world, the pitfalls and the dangers alongside Harry and his friends. In “Fantastic Beasts,” the adults move within a world with no explanations, forcing viewers to learn quickly or be left behind. Add to this characters who are likeable, but whom we know little about, and we learn nothing new about them in this film.

This fantasy is paced well, offering plenty of magic, danger and villains. However, the magic has little personality to it, becoming simply a wand point and a flash with the result – this almost seems like a cheat to the story. As the plot unfolds, the magic is used as a quick device to move on to the next plot point instead of weaving an interesting story with magical dressing.

This film is certainly darker than the first film and this added menace is welcome. People die, both adults and children, and Grindelwald’s plan is nefarious. This adds a much-needed edge to the unfolding mystery and will help focus viewers to the more complex narrative as well.

The cast gives strong performances in this dark adventure. Jacob is less silly, Tina is back to being “by the book,” Queenie is the tender heart of the film and Newt is even more likeable in this installment. Yet, while Johnny Depp gives a strong performance, his Grindelwald comes across as too obviously a Hitler-esque orator – a bit more subtlety would have gone a long way.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” will keep viewers’ attention with a perilous adventure, but J.K. Rowling is still searching for the “true magic” that will set this franchise ablaze.

Lynn’s Take:

Overstuffed and underwhelming, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is the second in a five-film franchise series -- but with its lackluster cliffhanger and mediocre plot, I’ve seen enough. This over-the-top fantasy spectacle isn’t compelling enough to make anybody other than super-fans care about what happens.

With too many characters, convoluted back stories, confusing subplots – didn’t Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) die in the first movie? – this Wizarding World sequel to J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” prequel is a tedious excursion.

This luxe-looking film, directed by returning David Yates, is darker and more complex than the first, but fumbles in not giving any real urgency to the returning supporting players. Character development took a backseat to the overblown visual effects that feel like filler anyway, and it’s a chore to keep everyone straight.

In the 2016 “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” we followed the nerdy charmer Newt Scamander, a zoologist whose love for bizarre creatures, large and small, was endearing. Redmayne is inherently likable, but now he’s tasked with saving the world and he’s outnumbered.

It’s a daunting task that his old Hogwarts teacher Albus Dumbledore enlists him for, and Jude Law is sharp in another fits-like-a-glove role. He’s worried because his once ‘closer-than-brothers’ foe, the diabolical Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), thinks wizards are the superior race and therefore all non-magical beings should be exterminated or enslaved. Hmmm…sound like any historical fascist you’ve heard of?

It pains me to say this, but Depp brings nothing fresh to a generic villain role, and with his white cornea and white hair, seems to be colorless on purpose. That’s a shame because the opening bamboozled scene is a dandy, and he is capable of more oomph into grandstanding in front of a green screen.

Still set in the late ‘20s, the world is increasingly divided – gee, does this sound familiar? – and Muggles are getting in the way of all these takeover schemes. The story threads are hard to follow, especially one that Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz) reveals, trying to make sense of the relationships, but it only partially explains the pained look on her face for most of the movie.

First set in New York, this one strains to make a case to go between England and America, and we seem to be in many extravagantly designed locations just because – without a real purpose.

Missteps abound, and despite good work from Redmayne and Law – a some cute critters, it’s just another apocalypse-is-brewing movie that’s ultimately forgettable.

If you throw it on the heap with “X-Men: Apocalypse,” “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Suicide Squad,” and “Terminator Genisys,” you’d only be able to tell it apart because of its sartorial splendor.