FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD (11/16/2018)
Director: David Yates
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Jude Law, Johnny Depp

My Rating: 7/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 40%

PLOT: Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Redmayne) searches Europe for a young man harboring a powerful talent, but must contend with dark forces led by the notorious dark wizard, Gellert Grindelwald (Depp).

[SPOILER ALERTS!!!]

In a nutshell, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is more exposition than spectacle, delivering chunk after chunk of background information on new and existing characters, culminating in a filial revelation that, frankly, I found more than a bit unbelievable. (But then, I originally thought Vader was lying to Luke Skywalker, so there you go.) The movie also has a weird habit of introducing characters and then forgetting about them, either altogether or for long stretches of time. (Wasn’t Bunty interesting? Two scenes, then nothing.)

But, I have to say, I loved the creatures again, just as I did in the first installment. The obscurial, for example, is a deceptively hard creature to bring to life, and it’s just as imposing and fearsome this time around. I loved seeing the niffler again, and who wouldn’t? The Chinese dragon creature, the Zouwu, was the highlight of all the creatures for me, if for no other reason than the charming method used to calm it down.

I did have a problem following the action during the film’s opening sequence, Grindelwald’s escape. In all the worst ways, it resembled one of the main fight scenes from Ang Lee’s “Hulk.” It takes place at night, in driving rain, and a lot of the action happens too fast for the eye to follow. I might as well have been watching an abstract screen saver.

Being a middle chapter, there were also a lot of threads left hanging, no doubt to whet our appetites for the third chapter, but frustrating nevertheless. I felt some key information was left out in Yusuf Kama’s story. The French witch in charge of the archives in the French Ministry of Magic seemed to know more than she was letting on…did she know immediately that she was being hoodwinked? It was nice to see Nicolas Flamel…but who was he talking to in that big book of his? A prophecy is mentioned repeatedly…but no one is ever able to finish it without being interrupted. The woman who fatally pulls a wand on an auror at the big gathering in the finale was glimpsed earlier in the film. Why? Was she meant to be important?

I haven’t read the negative reviews of the film, but I would imagine these questions and the density of the screenplay are key points in their arguments. I have no counterargument. The screenplay is indeed very dense. But the visuals are a treat, however rare they were. It was extremely cool, on a Potterhead level, to see Hogwarts again. (An audience member applauded when it appeared on screen.) The creatures are, naturally, fantastic.

I can only hope that these great gobs of backstory pay off in future installments of the franchise.

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