‘Fantastic Beasts’ falls short of expectations

Parker Otto

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” has impressionable characters, magical creatures and a beautiful atmosphere. However, the film has an unfocused narrative with nonsensical subplots and meanders resulting in a film that is okay at best and serviceable at worst. Warner Brother’s Nov. 16 release is the latest film in both J.K. Rowling’s “Wizarding World” and the “Fantastic Beasts” prequel series to the “Harry Potter” films.

The film continues nine months after the capture of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp. After escaping prison, his goal is to find Credence Barebone, played by Ezra Miller, who Grindelwald thinks might be able to kill the most powerful wizard standing in his way, Albus Dumbledore, played by Jude Law. Dumbledore also wishes to find and help Credence, so he instructs former student and magizooligist Newt Scamander, played by Eddie Redmayne, to get to Credence before Grindelwald.  

Redmayne once again delivers a delightful performance with high energy and impeccable characterization. Every time Scamander interacts with his magical creatures, it’s amazing to watch especially with either the Niffler, which hides shiny objects in its pouch, and the Bowtruckle, which picks locks.  

Other returning characters include Tina Goldstein, played by Katherine Waterston, an Auror who is also a possible love interest of Newt, Tina’s sister Queenie, played by Alison Sudol, and Queenie’s Muggle boyfriend Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler. All three have great interactions with each other and Scamander, but really don’t havea lot of purpose within the plotline. It seems their only justification for being in the film was they were in the previous instalment. The exception of these is Tina, who is after Credence and also joins Newt for the common good.

Out of the new cast members, Law and Depp stand out and are among the best performances in the film. While Grindelwald was little more than a cameo in the previous film, he has a strictly villainous persona and displays the extent of his power through the powers of the legendary elder wand. Law shines as a young Dumbledore by portraying the warm personality of Michael Gambon and the late Richard Harris, but this is someone more inexperienced than his older incarnations. Although he’s not in the film as much as one would hope, Dumbledore’s appearances are a highlight, and his future in the film series is anticipated.  

The biggest setback of the film is the drawn out plot The film’s running time is two hours and 13 minutes, but it feels a lot longer than that. A film should have a plot that flows and leaves the viewer wanting more, not wishing for the end. The plot also feels mild compared to others in the “Wizarding World” franchise. By the time the film is over, nothing  was accomplished. The worst part of the entire film is when the backstory of Newt’s former love interest Leta Lestrange, played by Zoë Kravitz, is revealed. It is incredibly confusing, even for die-hard Harry Potter fans, and ultimately the subplot adds nothing overarching narrative. The entire experience is like having a college professor going off on a long tangent and then saying, “By the way, you won’t be tested on this.”

The visuals of the “Wizarding World” are stunning and some of the best in the franchise. One of these visuals is when characters are at Hogwarts and revisit the halls. All the emotions expressed by the characters as they visit the Great Hall and the classrooms perfectly represents how fans feel viewing the scene. In the first film, the wizarding world of America is shown, but this film is set in Paris. Seeing the different cultures of magic further develops the world that Rowling created. The creatures are as wondrous as they were before and add a lighter tone to the film’s overall dark theme. They can be essential to the plot in some areas, helping characters escape perilous situations and finding missing people.

“The Crimes of Grindelwald” is a film that fans of the “Wizarding World” will find polarizing. Some may love it; some may hate it; either feeling is understandable. The film’s characters and visuals will delight fans, but the plot is overly complex, and the pacing is incredibly slow. The film is a mixed bag with both good and bad, but overall  a serviceable chapter in the grand story of Rowling’s “Wizarding World.”