Photos | Warner Bros. / Disney
From left: The second installment of the “Fantastic Beasts” series set in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World features the adventures of magizoologist Newt Scamander. Six years after the events of “Wreck-It Ralph,” Ralph and Vanellope, now friends, discover a Wi-Fi router in their arcade, leading them into a new adventure.
The title is too long, but most of the other complaints lodged against “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” are simply wrong, and I stand before you, only a medium-grade Harry Potter fan, to defend this maligned fantasy excursion. All these bad reviews are starting to sound the same, and I suspect hating this film is just a bandwagon at this point. Here’s my backlash.
I assume Johnny Depp is the underlying reason for these bad vibes, and I can see how he’s easy to hate. But if we’re going strictly by his performance in this film, it is perfectly good. Just because they made too many of those “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies it doesn’t mean he’s bad in this movie. His personal life is a thornier issue, but this is a film review, so I’m going to declare Depp a perfectly serviceable, villainous performer who isn’t even in that many scenes.
Multiple reviews have termed his performance “costume-driven,” or something to that effect, which is funny but inaccurate. I guess those people didn’t want him to wear a costume? Were they were mad because he has white hair and a scary contact lens? All the characters wear costumes, and they’re all quite nice. It’s set in a lovely time period, and there are some ladies’ shoes that especially spoke to me.
This particular installation in the adventures of shy but brave Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is a little light on the fantastic beasts. The first film mostly concerned him accidentally releasing some magical creatures and attempting to retrieve them, but these CGI critters don’t figure as prominently in this film. Honestly, I did not miss them. However, an early scene in his London home was extremely satisfying in the “magizoologist” department.
Overall, this film is darker, wordier and less whimsical than the first, but the action does go to Paris, where we get to see a fantastic circus and this gorgeous moving statue that reveals a secret entrance only the magical can see. What I like about these “beasts” movies, as opposed to the original Potter canon of films, is that they have more action within the human world, and I really like the scenes where little magical pockets and hidden worlds and devices are tucked into our normal world.
Some of the criticism of the film as being too “plotty” is valid. The characters are all searching for Credence (Ezra Miller — do yourself a favor and Google his recent red carpet appearances), who seemingly exploded at the end of the last film and possesses an incredibly strong magic that people want to either exploit or protect.
Also, the big question is who he really is, because we know him as an orphan. The question of his lineage is something that, for my taste, we spend a bit too much time on, and I guess the endless pursuit of this topic is what people are complaining about. Admittedly, it ends up being a big deal.
Mostly, people seem to think that somehow this story doesn’t “deserve” to have so many movies because “Fantastic Beasts” started from a brief reference in the original books, and J.K. Rowling expanded it. I have news for you people: She actually made the whole darn thing up. None of it is true. So there’s no such thing as a proper “source” anyway, and if she wants to make up some more made-up stuff, one is not inherently more deserving than the other.
“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is full of exciting and magical moments, plot twists, set pieces and characters. Plus, Jude Law is in it. The climax is thrilling, the actors are compelling and, yes, beautifully costumed, and my favorite character, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), is even better in this one. It suffers a bit from being in the middle of a series and having to set up so many questions that don’t get answered yet, but for every complaint I hear about this flick, I can think of something in it worth watching.
“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is now playing at all listed multiplex theaters.