It took 17 years, 7 books, one Broadway show, and now 10 movies for me to feel a sense of disappointment with something that comes from J.K Rowling’s wizarding world. I put on my Hogwarts t-shirt and attended the 2-week early fan screening of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. I was unprepared for the emptiness I’d feel two hours later.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them introduced us to a new world and band of characters in a fun-filled adventure two years ago. It set the foundation while telling a coherent self-contained story. Like the 8 Harry Potter films that came before, it contributed to a larger narrative while having its own distinct identity. This is the first film from the wizarding world that feels completely transitional. It is solely concerned with Universe building and setting up future instalments. The film doesn’t tell an engaging story on its own merit.
The good thing is that it’s still a sight to behold. Thanks to 2018 special effects, the wizarding world can be realized on the big screen better than ever. Set design is lovely and the period locations are immersive. Costumes, effects, and technical wizardry all come together flawlessly. Though some of the action scenes are staged and choreographed a bit clumsily compared to previous instalments. The film also has a wonderful score that really elevates key moments.
Another one of the film’s strengths is the well-rounded cast that dives into this world and inhabits it as their own. All the returning characters from the first film keep their charm and progress their journeys. Major new additions are Johnny Depp and Jude Law as young Gellert Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore. While I’d have liked for them to have more screen time, both fit into their roles exceptionally well. I’m excited to see more of them in the future. Zoe Kravitz as Leeta Lestrange is also a fine addition. The original franchise’s success was in large part owing to its well fleshed out characters and relationships. While these ones don’t quite compare yet, they are growing on me.
Recommended Read – Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them  Review – A Very well told Moving Magical Tale
Unfortunately, a charming cast comprising fun characters and visual wizardry can’t elevate a weak narrative. The screenplay is solely credited to J.K Rowling which makes it more disappointing. There definitely are some interesting deeper themes entrenched in, and the film makes some surprising turns. However, almost all the good stuff is saved for exposition dumps in the climax. The first two acts of the film jump around from one subplot to another without ever building momentum into a cohesive and thrilling plot. No spoilers, but a few elements feel unnecessary and shoved in just for servicing fans and to connect to the original franchise. This is made worse when it leads to alterations or breaks in the existing canon.
As a lifelong Harry Potter fan, I wanted to love this film. It’s still a polished and well-made enjoyable production with plenty to like, but I expect better from the talent that’s shaped far superior stories. There is still enough good here to recommend this as visually delightful competent blockbuster entertainment, but it saddens me to use that phrase for a film from this universe. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has many crimes of its own that lead to it being the weakest instalment from the wizarding world yet. I can only hope the next three are better!