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Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald review - soulless and convoluted

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Verdict: I know you feel obligated to see it because it's technically Harry Potter, but I wouldn't feel too bad about giving it a miss.

For all that the first Fantastic Beasts film was a pleasant surprise for those with low expectations, your expectations had better be on the floor if you want to walk away with the same feeling after Crimes of Grindelwald.

The best parts of this movie are those which mirror its predecessor — scenes of Newt (Eddie Redmayne) and Jacob (Dan Fogelman) corralling yet more beasts, Jacob and Queenie (Alison Sudol)’s budding romance and Newt and Tina (Katherine Waterson)’s awkward stumbling one. It’s a shame that most of these are relegated to the status of filler scenes in between so contrived and convoluted a plot that it’s difficult to care.

The mystery of Credence (Ezra Miller)’s true parenthood is the driving force behind this film, yet poor Miller is shoved so thoroughly into the background of his own mystery that it’s a marvel that they bothered even putting him in the film at all. Regardless of the fact that he was one of the best parts of the first one, and delivered such a stellar performance, in this film he has a t most one relevant scene, while the rest of the movie consists of other people talking about him.

The real let down here seems to be that JKR is so concerned with “clever” plotting, that there’s no consideration for character at all. Zoe Kravitz features as the mysterious Leta Lestrange  - very plot-relevant but with no actual character of her own beyond fulfilling plot requirements like causing an unnecessary love triangle, and providing much needed exposition. Nagini (Claudia Kim) too, whose reveal caused such outrage, plays absolutely no role at all other than to be objectified and then provide a sounding board for Credence to talk to in order to provide yet more exposition.

A prophecy of a chosen child, Dumbledore sending his students into life-threatening situations without giving a full explanation, Hogwarts itself — there are elements from the original series that make their way in here, yet it all just comes across a little hollow. The 5 picture deal means that the Fantastic Beasts franchise really has to drag it out until the final duel between Dumbledore and Grindelwald that we all know is coming, therefore we have to put up with a movie that is in its entirety a red herring. Literally just a waste of time.

Jude Law is charming as ever, and nails the twinkle in Dumbledore’s eye, while domestic abuser Johnny Depp delivers a solid but almost boring performance as his nemesis Grindelwald. Despite claims that their relationship wouldn’t be explicitly portrayed on screen, you’d have to be blind or wilfully ignorant to miss the hints of their love. That may well be considered a win for representation, except who really cares if wizard Hitler is gay? He’s still wizard Hitler, and Dumbledore’s still in love with him, so the representation isn’t particularly positive.

The wizard Hitler connotations really are at their worst at a Nazi-esque rally, with no thought at all given to the fact that three out of four of our core gang are explicitly Jewish, which should doubtless affect their position. 

On the note of representation, while Nagini and Leta are disappointingly written characters, we also get a delightful backstory about a black woman who gets imperiused, raped, and then dies in childbirth! Plus William Nadylam plays a character called Yusuf Kama, who suffered a lot from the late-made cuts and therefore operates solely as a plot device with a handy condition that causes him to fall unconscious literally whenever the plot needs him to do so.

JKR sorely needs to learn that wild plot twists that have weak basis and totally assassinate characters we love, does not a good film make.

The beasts are doubtless fantastic, and Redmayne really does use all his Oscar-winning talent to try and inject some soul into this soulless film, but unfortunately, that’s no mean feat.

Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald is in cinemas on November 16th.

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