FANTASTIC BEASTS – THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD [Review]: Monstrously Underwhelming.

Chris “Holy Spirit” Sawin

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them attempted to capitalize on the nostalgic gap Harry Potter fans have craved since the franchise ended five years prior, but the eccentric supporting cast, the vibrant beasts Newt kept in his briefcase, and Eddie Redmayne’s exceptionally peculiar behavior weren’t enough to support the film’s obsession with formulaic ridiculousness and insistence on being overwhelmingly campy at absolutely every opportunity.

Maybe it’s due to so many subplots going on and the sequel feeling like the mandatory-yet-bulky middle sequel in a proposed trilogy, but Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald feels tedious and boring. The film opens with Grindelwald’s (Johnny Depp) escape from custody. Grindelwald is trying to ignite a war between wizards/witches and Muggles/No-Maj’s. He believes that Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) is the one wizard powerful enough to kill Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and wants to get him over to his side before the Ministry of Magic convinces him otherwise. Newt Scamander (Redmayne) wants his travel ban lifted, but doesn’t want to join the ministry because he believes it’ll get in the way of his boner for magnificent creatures.

Credence is busy searching for his birth mother in an effort to shed light on who he really is, Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) is simultaneously searching for Credence in Paris and hiding from Newt who she believes is now engaged and is bitter about it, and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) roams aimlessly throughout the film after Queenie’s (Alison Sudol) enchantment spell is broken. There is way too much going on here, but the main takeaway from all this is that wizards are being forced to choose sides and a war between humans and wizards is inevitable.

No shame in adoring the Zouwu.

Once again, the highlight of a Fantastic Beasts film is the creatures. The sequel decided to overload the sequel with Niffler content throwing in a few babies and the shiny-stealer actually assisting Newt in his search for Tina. The fan-favorite will likely be the Zouwu; a giant, multicolored Chinese beast that moves like a Chinese dragon but is actually more feline in nature. The Zouwu is essentially an adorable cat the size of a house that loves cat toys and tearing shit up. The acting is lackluster at best, but Law does what he can make an impact as a young Dumbledore. He has a warmth to his performance that makes him feel approachable, but his power as a wizard has yet to be showcased in a Fantastic Beasts film.

The rest of the cast seems to be acting coy and subtle with their performances in an effort to hint at something deeper or more meaningful and yet not ever evolving into anything other than not being memorable overall. Redmayne licks the pavement at one point and is dead set on comparing Tina’s eyes to a salamander’s, Ezra Miller walks around like he peed on the carpet, got caught and scolded for it, and spends the rest of the film pouting, and Johnny Depp seems to borrow from Redmayne’s performance in Cloud Atlas; barely speaking above a whisper the majority of the time and yelling for maybe a line or two.

Possible fact: Johnny Depp bleached his asshole to stay in character.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald runs in circles without really going anywhere. It very much feels like a film that is setting up a sequel that is bound to be more action packed and crowd pleasing, which we’re only through two of the proposed five-film-prequel-franchise. This is the third film I’ve seen in the past two weeks that has nearly put me to sleep. The Crimes of Grindelwald is visually outstanding, but its convoluted storytelling, uninspired performances, and inability to make the events of this sequel seem relevant causes The Crimes of Grindelwald to feel like a torturous 134-minute exposure to a Caterwauling Charm. 1.75/5 “This Whole Franchise is Just a Fucking Magical Petting Zoo” Bibles.

-Chris Sawin

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