Back when it was announced that Warner Brothers would make a five-movie series based off of the small 128-page “Harry Potter” companion-book “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” many foresaw the series as a pure cash-grab.
2016’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the first in the series, did a good job of diverting that narrative with it’s solid standalone story, but this year’s “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” certainly didn’t help that perception.
Having been a die-hard “Harry Potter” fan most of my life, it was hard not to see the newest addition to the series as a pretty shameless nostalgia-fest meant to use the Potter name to milk another few hundred million dollars out of fans. As of Nov. 27, it had already made $438,754,309 worldwide according to IMDB.
That’s not to say that I didn’t giggle with glee like a small child in the theater when Hogwarts first appeared on the screen, or that the whole movie was all bad; it wasn’t.
Jude Law’s portrayal of a young Albus Dumbledore was a standout in the film. As reported by Entertainment Tonight last January, Law spent an afternoon alone with “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling delving into the intricacies of the character.
“She was kind enough to share with me the whole backstory and her future hopes for this young character of Dumbledore and really that set me on the path,” Law said to ET.
It paid off.
Similar to Ewan McGregor taking over as the younger version of an iconic character as Obi Wan Kenobi in “Star Wars”, when watching Law, you can’t help but think that it’s exactly what a young Dumbledore would look, sound and act like. Getting to see him actually teach students was an added bonus.
Eddie Redmayne’s reprisal of Newt Scamander was another high point. The character’s awkward, unassuming nature once again endeared him to me.
However the cons far outweigh the pros in my mind.
While the film offers plenty of backstory that expands heavily upon the past of Scamander, Dumbledore and Grindelwald. It often comes at the cost of blowing plot holes wide open, including a final twist that plays like poorly-written fan fiction.
Getting to see different magical locations around the world like the wizarding communities in New York City, London and Paris was a bonus when it came to exploring more of the “Harry Potter” universe, but also served to make the plot of the movie a convoluted, poorly edited mess.
Major Potter characters like Dumbledore and Grindelwald got significant screentime, new characters like Leta Lestrange, Theseus Scamander and Nagini got introduced and returning characters all got their own moments in the sun.
This combined to make a plot that’s nearly impossible for any new viewers of the franchise to understand, while it messes with way too many established characters’ stories for any hardcore fans to enjoy it.
Similar to this summer’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” “Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald” also suffers from feeling like connective tissue. Nothing really happens, it’s all just filler to get to the next movie.
I hope that the third film in the series, scheduled for November of 2020, does something worthwhile with the story that the second set up, or it’ll be the biggest let down in the Potter universe since “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”
2 out of 5 stars