Return to The Wizarding World with another entry in the Fantastic Beasts franchise which follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) on his next adventure. Tasked by Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) with putting a stop to Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), Newt travels to Paris where trouble and magic ensues.
I enjoyed the first film in the Fantastic Beasts franchise with its major negative being the unfocused and rather busy plot. Unfortunately this issue isn’t handled any better in The Crimes of Grindelwald where the story is constantly jumping all over the place and as a result is a bit of a mess. I didn’t have a lot of fun with this sequel overall, and that is for the most part due to how the story progresses and the pace at which it does so. Of the various subplots all moving towards a common ending I didn’t find the majority of them too engaging. A couple of characters storylines I was invested in but the majority I wasn’t completely on board with. There are a lot of moving parts with a lot of information being thrown around and at times it’s a bit too much to absorb. The unfocused nature of the story made it hard for me to really engage in all components of the plot as the jumping around was jarring and some subplots were considerably more interesting than others. It does have a number of surprises and pretty decent payoffs up its sleeve but getting there is a chore.
By far, the biggest highlight of the film are the performances which are on-point across the board. Eddie Redmayne leads the film as Newt, his charisma and the uplifting nature of his character make for a compelling protagonist who is easy to get behind on this adventure. The supporting performances from Ezra Miller (Credence), Dan Fogler (Jacob), Alison Sudol (Queenie), and Katherine Waterston (Tina) are strong and they all have some very effective emotional scenes to capitalise on throughout the story. Newcomer Jude Law makes a number of appearances here as a younger Albus Dumbledore and I enjoyed Law’s performance as the professor as well as the role he plays in the film. He’s a very different Dumbledore here which is as expected but I thought his presence not only made sense for the story but also wasn’t overused or forced in at any point. By far my biggest concern going into this sequel was how Johnny Depp would be as Grindelwald as I wasn’t sure I’d be able to take him seriously. But surprisingly, he was quite possibly my favourite part of the film. Depp does away with the over-the-top mannerisms and plays an evil and formidable antagonist very convincingly as he did with Whitey Bulger in 2015’s Black Mass.
Director David Yates has had his finger on the pulse of the Wizarding World since Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) and it shows in how despite the story woes this film mostly retains that magical tone synonymous with the entire franchise. Visually the film is astounding, the effects work used to bring to life the various beasts, magic, and environments is one of the film’s biggest strengths. If you want to believe magic is real, this film doesn’t do anything to make than any less of a reality.
Despite the positives such as the visuals and performances, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald suffers from a convoluted plot with a few too many moving parts resulting in something that’s a bit of a mess. The execution of the story and the buildup over time isn’t very engaging but the payoff in the end does still have me looking forward to the future of the franchise. Fans of the Wizarding World will no doubt get more out of the story with all of the small details and easter eggs but there is still some enjoyment to be had nonetheless.