This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Claudia Kim, left and Ezra Miller in a scene from ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’. Picture: Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros/via AP
This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Claudia Kim, left and Ezra Miller in a scene from ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’. Picture: Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros/via AP

Everything wrong with new Harry Potter

Oh boy. What a discombobulated mess.

Something definitely went off the rails on Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and now the only question that remains is where?

Was it in the editing, because the movie is choppy and all over the place, or does it go back to the script stage, where nonsensical story beats and baffling character choices were carved in stone, destined to doom the film?

There is just so much movie here, with about 14 subplots (but no main plot) and tons of new characters, the majority of which you do not care about, clogging up the screen time and trying your patience.

It has no focus - it's not even clear what Grindelwald's "crimes" are, and don't be mistaken in thinking he's the main character because his name is in the title - he's not, no one is. It jumps from one dizzying sequence to the next with little care about a cohesive story or throughline. It's such a frustrating experience for the audience.

Subplot #11 (Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)
Subplot #11 (Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

The much-mooted introduction of Jude Law as young Dumbledore also disappoints - not because Law isn't perfect as the primo wizard (he is) but because there is not enough of him to satiate lifelong fans of the Harry Potter universe.

The character is obviously being held back for a bigger role in one of three already announced follow-ups to The Crimes of Grindelwald which is part of an increasingly common and cynical movement from mega-franchises - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 was guilty of this too - where it's more preoccupied with setting up the next movie than respecting the movie audiences had already paid to watch.

A sequel to 2016's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and a prequel to the main Harry Potter books and films, The Crimes of Grindelwald picks up six months after the previous film.

After being captured by the American wizard community, Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) predictably breaks free during the trans-Atlantic prisoner transfer in an imaginative sequence that starts off impressive - the skeletal dragons look like something out of a Dali drawing - but then becomes harried and hard to follow.

Yumbledore, indeed (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)
Yumbledore, indeed (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

Back in Britain, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) has been banned from international travel after the shenanigans in New York.

Without spoiling too much, Newt is visited by Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Jacob (Dan Fogler) who reveal Tina (Katherine Waterston) is in Paris chasing down Credence (Ezra Miller), who survived the seemingly fatal blast from the first film.

Meanwhile, Dumbledore (Law) has also tasked Newt with finding Credence before the Ministry of Magic and Grindelwald does.

Much of the action is centred on Paris and there is a whirlwind of new and previously unseen characters of keep track of, including Newt's brother Theseus (Callum Turner, a dead ringer for Redmayne), Leta Lestrange (Zoe Kravitz), who has a complex relationship with Newt, Nagini in human form (Claudia Kim), alchemist Nicolas Flamel (Brontis Jodorowsky), Grindelwald henchman Abernathy (Kevin Guthrie) and a mysterious wizard named Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam), who is also gunning for Credence.

 

Johnny Depp is suitably creepy, which may or may not be a good thing (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)
Johnny Depp is suitably creepy, which may or may not be a good thing (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

Yeah, there is so, so much going on. And expecting audiences to care about all these new people as well as the ones we already knew is asking too much.

The problem could be that J.K. Rowling, whose incredible imagination bore these fruits, wrote the screenplay, as she did for the first Fantastic Beasts, as opposed to screenwriter Steve Kloves who adapted all the Harry Potter books, bar one, to film.

Consider how much she packs into her books, especially the later ones which stretched past 700 pages, and then think about what happens when you try to cram in as much into a two-hour-and-10-minutes long movie. It doesn't work.

On the plus side, the production values are wonderful - you can see where they've spent the money. The design, costume and effects work is top-notch and, if nothing else, at least you won't be bored taking in the visuals.

Let's hope Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a blip on the otherwise decent Harry Potter movie franchise and Rowling and her film partners course correct on the next one. Because if there's one thing we know for sure, it's that there will be another, and another and another.



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