Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

The first thing I noticed is how dark this film is – not in terms of content (it’s pretty light on content but more on that later) – I mean lighting wise. It’s super difficult to see a lot of what’s going on in parts at the start and while this seems to be a trademark of director David Yates (director of 4 Harry Potter films) it’s also a sign the budget perhaps couldn’t quite stretch to the CGI that the director was after (or that the director’s a bit shit – I think both apply here).

The opening sequence sees Grindelwald escape from prison while being transferred from New York to Europe. I’d like to say the scenes were well done but it was so dark you couldn’t really see what was going on – the action was blurred and fast paced to a point where you didn’t know who was who or who you were rooting for and that leads me on to another problem.

I’d not seen Fantastic Beasts since it was in the cinema and while I do own the DVD I chose to watch Geostorm the night before seeing this. This was a bit of a mistake – not because Geostorm is a bad film (which it is, sort of) – but because I spent the first 20 minutes of “The Crimes Of Grindelwald’ trying to figure out who everyone was.

While I do like a fast-paced story and get annoyed at long character introductions in sequels, a quick recap would have been most helpful – especially when you can’t figure out whether a character is a good or bad guy.

The story then moves to the main character Newt Scamander who, after causing havoc in New York in the first film, has been under a form of house arrest and has been unable to leave England. The Ministry of Magic is prepared to lift the ban if Newt helps them recapture Credence (who’s meant to be a bad guy but is just misunderstood surely? NO J.K! He’s a naughty boy, stop handling him with kid gloves!)

Newt doesn’t even entertain the offer is and all like “Dude! I don’t work for The Man, man!” so the Ministry slaps another Donald Trump-esq travel ban on him, kicks him out and gets someone else to do their dirty work.

While Newt is trying to enjoy a peaceful life with his assistant and his cellar full of magical beasts, Jacob and Queenie arrive at his home. Jacob is very much in love and is happily engaged – or so it would seem. It turns out that Queenie has put a charm on Jacob in order to keep him with her after the Magical community banned marriage between Wizards and No-Magics.

I think this part of the plot was intended to be amusing – the besotted Jacob tries to have comedic moments but in the wake of #METOO, I found the thought that Queenie had to force Jacob to be with her disturbing and, quite frankly, distasteful. Given how vocal J.K Rowling has been on these sorts of issues it’s a surprise inclusion in her script and if she were hoping to shine a spotlight on the issue by “cleverly” reversing the scenario she fell well short of the mark.

After being approached by Albus Dumbledore (played by a very smarmy Jude Law) Newt eventually decides to visit Paris (I won’t go into the “will he, won’t he” details – we knew he would go otherwise it would have been a flipping short film). Well, I say he went to Paris but as this film is so lacking in any lighting it could have been the Blackpool Tower in the background for all I know.

There’s all sorts of bits of a story involving Credence and the search for his birth mother which seems shoehorned in to make us feel sorry for him and to set up the ending so I won’t bother covering it here. Another shoehorned story is that of Leta Lestrange who is simply there to set up a few plot points, provide a red herring or two and is sorely underused and yet another shoehorned story is that of Nagini, a woman destined to become a snake, get used as a horcrux and then get her head chopped off – what her real value in this film is I’m not sure except to prove that other Asian characters apart from Cho Chang exist.

I was left feeling somewhat underwhelmed and confused by this film. Jonny Depp’s Grindelwald is Rowling’s allegory for when politics goes bad (we know you hate Trump J.K, just keep it out of your films please) and there are characters that are being introduced that have no right to exist in the timeline set out by Rowling in the Harry Potter films. Ordinarily you’d blame these continuity errors on an under-prepared writer but as Rowing is the writer there is no excuse.

I don’t know if this is some clever planning on Rowling’s part, she’s gone mad with creative power or she just doesn’t care any more as she knows the money will roll in regardless but it has the Potterverse up in arms – in fact it’s caused so many ructions in terms of plot holes and racism/sexism/you-name-it-isms that it’s been mentioned in The New Statesman, NME and The Independent and when mainstream media chips in you know you have an issue.

I enjoy Harry Potter, I’m not an expert fan by any means but even I know that Professor McGonagall can’t be at Hogwarts during this period and if you make such a glaring error what other problems are there? Well, quite a massive one as it turns out but I won’t spoil the end of the film for you.

It’s a shame that this film fell so flat that I was left feeling like I needn’t have watched it and it was 2-plus hours I’d wasted that I could have used viewing something more enjoyable. The Crimes Of Grindelwald is merely filler to move the story along and bulk out the series – and as there are 5 movies planned I would image films 3 and 4 to be more filler than substance again.

I rated this film a 5 (or “Meh”) rating – why? Because you don’t really need to watch it, I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to see the third film without needing to see this one so save your 2 hours and 14 minutes and watch something more worthwhile.

Watch this if you need to get angry about something but can’t quite build up a head of steam – a bad script and continuity errors will have you irate in no time at all.