Reel Reviews | Fantastic Beast: The Crimes of Grindelwald

by Monica Hayes

J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beast: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the second installment of this magical franchise, is a messy but fun movie to watch.
The Crimes of Grindelwald opens up six months after the dramatic capture of the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) who has been in the custody of the MACUSA. The British Ministry of Magic has come to collect him and return him to London to answer for his crimes there. Well wouldn’t you know, Grindelwald has other plans. He manipulated his co-conspirators into staging an elaborate escape.

Now three months later, back in London, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is getting ready for his meeting with the ministry to lift his international travel ban. While there, he runs into old love Lita Lestrange (Zöe Kravitz) and his “war hero” brother Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner). During the meeting, officials try to entice Newt to work for them and to help them find and kill Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) before Grindelwald finds him. Wait, he died in the subway tunnel right? Turns out, Credence survived the MACUSA attack and is now traveling with a magical circus in Paris so he can find out who he is. Newt flatly refuses the officials which prompt Theseus to tell him “you have to pick a side.” Newt replies “I don’t do sides.” Well, that’s funny because when Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) asks him to go to Paris to find Credence, Newt agrees. I thought he didn’t pick sides?

Newt is reunited with his old friends Jacob (Dan Fogler) Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Tina (Katerine Waterston) along with others in the in a race to find and save Credence from the evil clutches of Grindelwald and eventually stopping a possible global wizardry war.

The Crimes of Grindelwald is the second installment in writer J.K. Rowling and director David Yates plan to be a five-part prequel to the Harry Potter universe. However, while entertaining, it has some issue. One is that there is a lot going on that you may need to take notes. There were several plot threads that were introduced, but none really seemed to develop into a cohesive strong storyline. What little cohesion we do get, seems to get bogged down into yet another plot thread. As I said, you will need to take notes to keep up.

Along with the several plot threads, there is seems to be unnecessary plots. We know that Tina and Newt are into each other and that Queenie and Jacob are so in love they are practically falling over each other. We also have Lita and Theseus who are engaged to be married, but it looks like Lita still has the hots for Newt. While these storylines can add to the background, they also serve as a distraction. Too many times in the middle of or right before the story gets going good, we are interrupted with a love-struck plot that doesn’t add to the furtherance of the story.

The last issue I will mention is that some of these threads are conflicting or outright confusing with the order in which they were explained in the Potter books/moves. Fans of the books will be left questioning what they know to be true or if these threads are a trickery of Rowling used to through us off.

What Crimes of Grindelwald does best is that it keeps with the original moniker of the Fantastic Beasts. Newt’s thieving but cute and adorable Nifflers and pet Bowttruckle Pickett make their return, as well as Kelpie the sea dragon and the Chinese-born Zouwu that puts you in the frame of mind of the Chinese dragon used in the parades. Grindelwald gets into the action with his own blue fire dragons. It also brings some clarity (to a degree) to some characters and subplots that have been mentioned previous Harry Potter books/movies. To mention who and what they are will spoil the fun.

Overall, with so much going on, and so much to keep up with audiences could leave the theater confused. This is supposed to be The Empire Strikes Back version of the wizardry world and give all the important details needed to set the stage for the next installment. It is, just a messier version. Either way, Fantastic Beast: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a spectacular watch with a lot of Easter eggs.

Grade B