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Fantastic Beast: The Crimes of Grindelwald

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There are many people out in the world who have consumed enough of J.K Rowling’s Wizarding World for multiple lifetimes. They’ve spent time reading and re-reading the beloved Harry Potter book series, revisiting the films, and expanding their knowledge with the ever-evolving Pottermore content that keeps building that world of wizards, muggles, and magic. Part of, Harry Potter Sequels, Fantastic Beast the Crime of Grindelwald was coming up on theater!
Grindelwald picks up around a year after the first film, with dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) escaping custody and going on the run. Unable (for reasons later explained) to stop Grindelwald himself, a younger Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to help put the brakes on a planned uprising by Grindelwald and his followers. That simple, straightforward story is then overcomplicated by interwinding subplots and characters focused on identity, love, duty, and other motivations that are honestly never made clear.
While the overall plotting may be lacking, the performances in Grindelwald are pretty solid all around, with returning performers given room to expand and grow whilst certain newcomers shine. Eddie Redmayne again plays Newt Scamander with a bit of innocently aloof charm. I’m of the belief that his Scarmander falls somewhere on the spectrum, and he does well as a conflicted hero not wanting to
take sides in a growing struggle. He’s just a guy who wants to spend his time with his beasts, even if the humans around him keep getting in the way.
Returning cast members like Dan Fogler get a chance to layer their previously established characters with new wrinkles. His ‘no-Maj’ (or muggle for you purists) Jacob Kowalski is still one of the best parts of these new films, filled with wide-eyed wonder balanced with just enough confusion to get good laughs. His scenes with Alison Sudol as the vibrant Queenie Goldstein are among the best in the film, which now gives them a foreboding with the ever-growing threat of Grindelwald out there. Katherine Waterson, Ezra Miller, and Zoë Kravitz also return and do fairly well with their sometimes underwritten or murky character motivations. Kravitz comes out the best of the three as Leta Lestrange, a torn woman from Newt’s past who serves as a larger key to the plot than is let on. Newcomers to the series such as Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, and William Nadylam are fine, but their characters are oftentimes either thin, muddled or set up for larger things, later on, reducing their impact in the immediate story.
Last but certainly not least are Johnny Depp and Jude Law as Grindelwald and the younger Albus Dumbledore, respectively. Depp is effectively creepy and charming, playing Grindelwald as some sort of 1920s pied piper. He’s a man clearly made of evil intentions but gifted with a silver tongue sharp enough to charm followers with his rhetoric. Law is absolutely perfecting casting for a young Dumbledore, and wonderfully captures the warmth and love of the character while also letting his quietly scheming nature simmer under the surface. Dumbledore is always someone who knows more than he lets on, and Law balances that mischievous knowledge with a true sense of heart.
With such a strong main cast, it’s a genuine shame that the structure of the film, written by series mastermind J.K. Rowling herself, is so utterly garbled that it borders on incoherent for a good chunk of its 134-minute runtime. Scenes fail to connect to one another on a basic level, leaving you wondering how we got from point A to point Q so quickly. Grindelwald also features character reveals that apparently call into question the entirety of certain characters history from Rowling’s universe.

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