Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (David Yates, 2018) 1½ out of 4 stars.
David Yates returns to the wizarding world for the sixth time and brings the sequel of the new Harry Potter spinoff series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, to the silver screen. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (or Fantastic Beasts 2) stars Eddie Redmayne as the shy magizoologist Newt Scamander. News of the rogue wizard Grindelwald and his ever-growing pack of followers plagues the souls of the secret wizarding world on a daily basis. The ministry of magic is quickly losing control of the situation and when they learn that the young man who nearly destroyed most of New York City, Credence Barebone, is still alive and well, they seek the help of Newt. The ministry knows for sure Newt is the one man who can track down Credence and kill him if he must. Newt and his friends, played by Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, and Alison Sudol, must find Credence before Grindelwald captures him and tosses him into his army of dark wizards and witches.
Fantastic Beasts 2 will go down as Warner Brothers (W.B.) Studios second failed attempt to successfully establish a shared-universe blockbuster franchise that can compete with Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe. Much similar to W.B.’s crumbling DC superhero universe, the Fantastic Beasts franchise’s biggest crime is fitting five to six movies worth of plotting and multiple character arcs into the first sequel. It’s hard to call Fantastic Beasts 2 a movie. Its three acts are buried under mounds upon mounds of soulless exposition, and it hopscotches from character to character, desperately trying to find a lead protagonist. Eddie Redmayne feels like an extra in his own film. Occasionally the story settles down from its frenetic action and lets us see Mr. Scamander in his element, working with new and inventive-looking creatures of the magical world, but only briefly. Against all the odds, Warner Brothers have made Newt and his briefcase of magical animals footnotes in this series.
The decision to cram too much story and plot for future sequels into one film is not the most frustrating problem of Fantastic Beasts 2. Nowadays, blockbusters do not act as vehicles for epic stories anymore. They are nothing more than fragile husks that can hold nothing of worth—only cash and financial charts. The biggest problem is that this ill-paced and jumbled film is written by one of the most celebrated storytellers of our time, J.K. Rowling. A person can drive themselves insane thinking of what went wrong. Did the studio take Rowling’s script and punch it up with more plot setup for future installments in the series, or did she approach the script with the wordy mentality of a novelist? We may never know.
Fantastic Beasts 2 is the kind of underwhelming tentpole blockbuster that makes you feel a little sorry for its star-studded cast. Financially these men and women will be just fine, but you can’t help but imagine a better project that would fully utilize the talents of these actors. Two movies into the series and Warner Brothers has officially ruined any chance to tell a consistent and emotionally charged story of its supposed protagonist, Newt Scamander.