In this second entry of a planned five part story, the true design of the Fantastic Beasts franchise has begun to shape. It isn’t the fun, upbeat story that the first film led us to the believe in the trailers, it’s the lead-up to the greatest wizarding battle of all time: Dumbledore v. Grindelwald.
The first film led us into this just a little bit, but The Crimes of Grindelwald picks up this story and runs with it exclusively throughout its two-hour runtime. I say “runs with it” when I should say “limped to the barn with it.” The film is an unnecessarily slow burn of a story that really serves as nothing more than a bridge between an introduction and something much bigger.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald once again follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) this time alongside Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) as the pair attempt to thwart the takeover over the wizarding world by the darkest wizard of their time, Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp). There are also returns from the first film like Credence (Ezra Miller) and Tina (Katherine Waterston) and the introduction of a great, new character, Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz).
The film boasts a talented, diverse cast but unfortunately, their talent is almost wasted on a story that feels bloated and goes almost nowhere. I liken this film to Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the way that it serves as a bridge between bigger parts of a story, except The Two Towers was still…a good movie.
The two best performances came from Kravitz and Depp. I’ve admired Zoe Kravitz’s work for a while and Johnny Depp is finally back in rare form after losing his winning streak in the early 2010s. His Grindelwald feels genuinely dangerous and charismatic, which is a dangerous combination indeed.
The magical creatures this time around did still have the same beautiful effects as the first film. This time, they were not the focus. I think since the films are still called Fantastic Beasts, that’s a bit of an issue.
As I’ve said twice now, I think The Crimes of Grindelwald fell flat because it didn’t have much else to do except set up the next film. I can only hope that the lead up it created is worth it as we move forward deeper into the lore of this franchise that I love so much.