Before our screening of “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” they showed us a “Previously on…” clip show that linked past “Harry Potter” movies to the “Fantastic Beasts” movies and that should tell you all you need to know about this movie.
I’m not sure if they’ll show the clip trailer before every screening of “The Crimes of Grindelwald,” but it wouldn’t surprise me. The second installment, even more than the first, is banking on Harry Potter nostalgia to carry the audience. As a standalone entity this film has basically given up. There’s a heavy dose of “Remember this part of Harry Potter?” going on here and it never stops.
Watching these movies, you get the feeling that the hardcore Harry Potter fans don’t care much about the characters on screen. They only care how those characters, however loosely, tie into the stories that have gone before.
From the earliest trailers we’ve seen images of Hogwarts in this film, priming the audience for callbacks that will make them swoon and swoon they did. The moment Hogwarts shows up, along with John Williams’ iconic score was the biggest audience reaction of the night.
The problem with these movies is that they know the fans simply want more Harry Potter movies and they’re trying to give them that but with characters they don’t care much about.
And so, it goes, “The Crimes of Grindelwald” follow the initial rise of the “first dark lord,” as Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) gathers likeminded wizards to do battle with those who think differently than him. So basically, an early version of Voldemort.
It’s really the same story when you boil it down to its essentials, which makes it uninteresting. Plus, I’ll never forgive this franchise for turning Colin Farrell into Johnny Depp. Talk about an unforgivable curse.
There’s so much going on in this movie and so many characters to follow that it’s difficult to ascertain the flow of the plot. Then there were times where, even though I didn’t know what was going on, I found myself not caring.
Characters monologue ad nauseam as the script tries desperately to link these events to the beloved Harry Potter movies. It all feels superficially tacked on without a thought as to why any of this really matters in the long run.
Given the franchise’s namesake the films are also quite light on fantastic beasts. At least the first one knew what it was and focused in on the beasts as the drive for the main character. Here the beasts are an afterthought as Newt (Eddie Redmayne) finds himself embroiled in this war between young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Grindelwald. Why is he the central figure in the story? Who knows? Because he was in the first movie and they couldn’t just cast him aside? Probably.
Fans will probably love it and the filmmakers know that. As long as they throw in enough Potter references to keep them salivating the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise can churn out just as many movies as the franchise that birthed it. They do, however, seem superfluous.