‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ review — Visually extravagant but gratuitous

Eddie Redmayne in a scene from "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald."   | Photo Credit: AP

There’s a powerful line in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald when animal-lover Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) reiterates his ideology: “There are no strange creatures, only blinkered people.” It sets the tone for the film’s essence: tolerance, love, kindness and compassion. It’s a theme that screenwriter J.K Rowling — who made her film debut writing the first instalment — has continued to abide with. She beautifully captured and proliferated the message with the Harry Potter series and its spin-offs. But it’s a stretch when audiences are fed the same spiel yet again but only this time with a massive entangled knot of complications. Clocking in at a little over two hours, Crimes of Grindelwald achieves a rare feat: confusing its audience with consecutive plot twists while simultaneously having no meat on its bones. Every character has a connection to someone we’ve encountered in the Potterverse. While you’re wracking your brains piecing together these links, another piece of one pops out of nowhere smacking you in the face.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
  • Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Johnny Depp, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, William Nadylam, Kevin Guthrie.
  • Director: David Yates
  • Storyline: Albus Dumbledore recruits animal lover Newt Scamander to foil Gellert Grindelwald’s evil plans.

Rowling clutches on to her tried and tested formula featuring super evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald (domestic abuser Johnny Depp) escape his prison and wreak havoc on the the world. He’s still hot on the heels of Creedence Barebone (Ezra Miller) from the first film. The young orphan, Creedence is an obscurial, making him a powerful wizard and Grindelwald’s only chance to thwart Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law). Side note: the only reference to the two men’s romance — a love that Rowling herself confirmed years ago — is in a “closer than brothers” tepid dialogue. Dumbledore recruits Scamander to save Creedence from Grindelwald.

With so many characters and their own little plots, there’s hardly any screen time to firmly establish any of their arcs. There’s one love triangle, two romantic plots, a focus on fascism, tolerance of all creatures, avenging a family member and so much more. And they all come equipped with their own flashback sequences. But Yates makes a lovely looking lemonade with these sour lemons — let’s forget the taste for the moment. Despite all gratuitousness, the director crafts a visual extravaganza. The CGI creatures, those from the film’s title, really just are fantastic and never once come up short. Their bodies are as alive as a real animal on screen and their expressions just as tender. The wizards’ duels are impressive and the fight at the end is nothing short of spectacular, engulfing every audience member in an adrenaline rush.

Yates just knows how to amplify his character’s best traits: Depp is deliciously malicious; Redmayne is endearingly demure; Law is genial and wise, just like everyone else does what they’re supposed to.

Unfortunately, all of Yates’ accomplishments can’t quell the underwhelming realisation that Rowling sent her fans on a wild goose chase that only just might come to fruition in 2020. But then again there are five films in the series and we’ve only seen two.

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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 1:23:55 AM |

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