I've seen every movie of the Harry Potter franchise so far and know practically zilch from the books. It's fine.
My Wizarding History
I grew up watching all of the movies from the original Harry Potter movie series; the entire series from The Sorcerer’s Stone (The Philosopher’s Stone) to The Deathly Hallows Part 2 I have seen, a few of them actually in the theater but mostly on home video. I read a couple of the books, but only the first two and that was going on fifteen years ago. Mostly I watched the movies with my family and it became kind of tradition to watch them together, especially when a new sequel was coming out to theaters or DVD depending on how we were planning to view it. And for the most part, I enjoyed the series. I liked the distinct characters, I liked the imaginative world, I liked the stories going from fun kids movie fluff to a darker and more serious tone by the end of the series. They were mainly decent and entertaining flicks that I watched many times with my family until my late teens when the last installment was released. Honestly it’s been a number of years since I’ve gone back to revisit Harry Potter movies but I still remember them fondly.
When Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them came out a couple of years ago I thought that it was fine. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, I thought it was okay. It contained some structural issues and the lead character wasn’t very well developed or charismatic to me, but overall I had a fine enough time with it to at least say it was worth maybe renting once. The biggest reason for my recommendation being that of Dan Fogler’s performance as Jacob Kowalski, providing the movie with a lot of heart from this very charming character. Going into Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald I was looking forward to seeing Dan Fogler back, but was pretty neutral for seeing much else.
The Crimes of This Movie
This movie is dull. I mean real dull and quite the mess. I thought the first film had some issues with focus, but at least I could say that there was a narrative going on, it simply got distracted from time to time with it. This film had trouble finding its own plot. Sometimes it was about Newt Scamander tracking down Credence before Grindlewald finds him. Sometimes it was about Credence figuring out his origins and who his birth mother was. Sometimes it was about Grindlewald who recently escaped from prison and is hiding out being sinister, not doing much until the last act. Sometimes it was about Albus Dumbledore being accused of conspiring with Grindlewald because he refuses to fight him. Sometimes it was about Leta Lestrange and her mysterious past and her concluded romance with Newt. Sometimes it was about Newt in search of his current love interest, Tina Goldstein, and their romance sub plot. Sometimes it was about Tina investigating Credence and Grindlewald on her own. Sometimes it’s about this random guy trying to find Credence on his own and thwart everyone else. Sometimes it was about Jacob Kowalski and his conflict with his love interest, Queenie. Randomly out of nowhere it will be about Newt wrangling up mystical creatures for no reason. For a film entitled The Crimes of Grindlewald it sure does a good job at focusing on everything else except any crime actually perpetrated by Grindlewald or even feature him for that long, period. Johnny Depp is probably in the movie for a total of fifteen minutes at best, while he does the best with what he’s given, there isn’t all that much to work with and he leaves nearly no impact by the time the credits roll. This movie seriously lacks focus, has practically no structure to its story, and gives me almost nothing to become invested.
Fantastic Beasts 2 constantly feels like, “This happens, and then this happens. And then this happens. And then this happens.” Without any real string connecting the dots. It all feels disconnected and had things happening for no reason at all, resulting in me not caring when I got lost in whatever plot thread it moved onto next. It spends too much time trying to build up this world and while it is a visually imaginative world to witness, I never once felt I was a part of it, nor did I have much strive for exploration of it because there was no story justifying why I was watching certain events unfolding. Which maybe I could have been more forgiving of if I had characters I wanted to watch live in this world, but for the most part, there’s no one. Aside from Kowalski, I don’t care or even like anyone in this movie, and even Kowalski gets sidelined for most of the runtime since the movie focuses on so many different things from him. Folger has very minimal time to shine here and his character was immensely shoehorned into this plot to begin with.
Newt – “Wait, I thought that your memory was completely wiped?!”
Kowalski – “Didn’t work!”
Well that’s all the explanation I need… Seriously though, as lazy an excuse that is for Fogler to come back for this sequel, I am fairly glad he did return since he was the only person I latched onto in this movie. He is the only one with a soul and feels genuine, everyone else is lifeless and extremely bland. No one has a real conversation with anyone, except for Kowalski who feels like an actual human being that tries to have a discussion with the others. Everyone else is forced to dance around what they mean or jump to idiotic conclusions to move things along. One of the biggest and most awkward examples of that being an argument that transpires between Kowalski and Queenie. Kowalski was put under a love spell so that Queenie could force Kowalski to marry her, even though the only reason Kowalski didn’t want to marry her was to keep her safe since it is illegal for her kind (a witch) to marry anyone who isn’t born with magic powers. Okay, the fact that this woman basically induced a man into a date rape spell is beyond creepy to me and I’m positive that if the gender roles were reversed it would have probably been called out immediately for it. However, for some reason when Kowalski calls her out on being crazy for what she did to him, the movie is under the impression that I am supposed to feel bad for Queenie because Kowalski called her crazy. No. Not how that works, she is crazy when she forces a man against his will to marry her. It’s sad because I really found their relationship in the first movie very adorable and I routed for them as a couple. Here though, I wanted Kowalski to get a restraining order.
Newt Scamander Sucks
I’m sorry, I really am. I’m sorry if someone likes this character and I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s opinion of Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, but I think that this character is terrible. He’s not likable in the slightest. He has nothing in the way of charisma or charm. He’s not an interesting character to watch or learn about, which we learn nothing about him here anyways. This just feels like a cynically written and performed character in the sense that all Newt is intended for is to be played quirky and cutesy in order to appeal to the teeny boppers. It’s as though the creators of this character want a reaction from the younger female demographic to be “Aww he’s so cute cause he’s all shy and loves animals. OMG!” There is nothing to this guy. I mean, nothing. I find him to be boring and somewhat aggravating since he’s the worst offender of never having a true conversation with anyone. And yes, I understand that he is supposed to be socially awkward and relate to animals more than people. I get that, but the writer still needs to develop the character to have interesting qualities or an engaging backstory. And the actor needs to perform in a way to make me as the viewer want to watch a movie based around him; however both of these accounts fail in my eyes. Normally I really enjoy Eddie Redmayne, even in a bad film, Redmayne can be a blast to watch. In these two Fantastic Beasts movies he’s been a chore for me to even pay attention to. I hope this character improves in future installments somehow, but at this point I highly doubt it.
The Crimes of Grindlewald bored me to tears. I wasn’t invested in a single thing that happened. It was as though so many things happened yet nothing at all. It’s difficult to explain, but I couldn’t care less. This was a snooze fest. The plot didn’t even feel like it kicked in until literally the very last minutes of the movie. I do have my fingers crossed for whatever comes next for this series, but I won’t be holding my breath. Fantastic Beasts started off rocky as it was, now it’s thrown itself into a disastrous state. Not to say it’s a disaster of a film, it’s just boring. There are some decent things here and there, like I said with Fogler being good in his role and the world having some creativity to it. But that wasn’t near enough to carry this film for me. If you loved the first Fantastic Beasts movie then maybe you’ll like this, but if the first one didn’t win you over then I find it unlikely that this would change a thing. It’s far from the worst I’ve seen this year, but it has nothing going for it. The plot is all over the place. 90% of the characters have no personality. Newt Scamander is irritating and bland. Exposition is dumped everywhere without any natural dialog. The movie sits at almost two and a half hours and there is nothing here to justify that run time. And to end it all off, the climax was severely underwhelming. I didn’t care for this film. If someone else does dig Fantastic Beasts 2 then that’s great for them, but I couldn’t get into it. Take that for what it’s worth, I suppose.
Seen the rest of the franchise?
© 2018 John Plocar