REVIEW: ‘Beasts’ sequel isn’t all that fantastic

It’s safe to say that the magic is gone.

For the uninitiated, “Crimes of Grindelwald” is the second installment of the “Fantastic Beasts” series, which is a spinoff of the “Harry Potter” movies. The series is set decades before the “Harry Potter” events and follows a wizard named Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who’s an expert when it comes to dealing with various creatures.

In this installment, Scamander is tasked by a younger Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to keep track of a situation in France that’s related to the fearsome antagonist of the series, Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). Like its predecessor from 2016, “Crimes” has Newt team up with his friends from New York, Jacob (Dan Fogler), Tina (Katherine Waterston) and Queenie (Alison Sudol).

That plot synopsis might seem straightforward enough. However, I whittled it down quite a bit. Maybe the worst part of “Crimes of Grindelwald” is how convoluted and bloated the whole thing feels.

There are several sub-plots taking place, from Newt’s relationship to his brother, to a young prodigy that is being sought for his power and numerous romantic conflicts taking place. There’s just so many threads going on and none of them are brought together in cohesive fashion.

Not only does the story feel like a puzzle with pieces that don’t fit together well, the film also moves too slow. Despite there being supposed major threats, I didn’t get a sense of urgency and the stakes didn’t seem all that high. Most of the film, I was just waiting for something interesting to happen, but there’s so much exposition to slog through.

When it comes to the characters, I do understand that Newt is supposed to be a guy with his fair share of quirks and a bit of social awkwardness, but more often than not, he’s just dull. Redmayne is a talented actor, but his performance just feels too reserved for a character in such a fantastical setting. His character doesn’t have that much of an arc, either. He makes some different decisions as the film goes on, but his character hasn’t really evolved since the original.

The rest of the characters are hit or miss. Law works as a younger Dumbledore here, but he was the only memorable person on screen for the most part.

New characters like Newt’s brother Theseus (Callum Turner) and Theseus’ fiance Leta (Zoe Kravitz), bring very little charm to the product. The character Queenie, had an arc that really didn’t make much sense. And to be honest, I really don’t know why the character Jacob is still around, other than some humor that wears thin quite quickly.

As for the antagonist, Depp plays the part well enough. However, the character lacks the personal connection to the protagonist the same way Voldemort did, and as a result, he comes off as largely generic. His plan is confusing and he doesn’t have any interesting aspects.

Considering the studio has plenty of faith in the franchise, “Fantastic Beasts” 2 must’ve had a big budget to use, and it shows. The special effects are done well and the movie looks fine. But with that said, after nine other movies as well as several other film franchises with their own mystical worlds, the “Harry Potter” settings aren’t all that grand anymore. There’s a scene introducing the magical area in Paris and it just felt like more of the same, it’s lost its luster.

This is a series that has clearly lost its steam. The original “Fantastic Beasts,” I think, played a lot on audiences’ love of “Harry Potter,” and in its own right, it was an entertaining enough side story.

With this entry, though, there’s not all that much to keep things interesting. The characters aren’t all that memorable, the story is jumbled and the whole magical world isn’t really fascinating anymore. 1.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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