‘Crimes of Grindelwald’: the slowest magic around

Semler at the Cinema features Brandon Semler’s thoughts on the world of film, including reviews, think pieces, previews and more.

By Brandon Semler

My prevailing question after walking out of the latest “Fantastic Beasts” installment was: who are these movies for? 

Director David Yates’ fourth entry in the Harry Potter universe (he directed the last four Potter films and the first “Fantastic Beasts” entry) is a dark, plodding thriller that is more interested in its Dan Brown-esque family tree mystery than it is the spectacular universe it lives in. 

And, to state it simply, it’s boring.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is mostly set in late 1920s Paris, as Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and allies follow clues and leads that will lead them to stopping Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), an evil and powerful wizard who has recently escaped from custody.

Harry Potter creator and author J.K. Rowling penned the screenplay for the film, and served as a producer. 

Much like its predecessor, the film moves slowly with heavy dialogue and a very dark, limited color pallete, a recipe for a nap. It is evident from two full-length endeavors that these films are not designed for children anymore. Beyond just the dire circumstances (which we admittedly got in later Harry Potter installments), the film’s interest in a family mystery completely consumes it. Much of what unfolds is not easy to follow, and seemingly impossible for a child or early teen. But more importantly, it’s blatantly uninteresting. 

So its not for kids. But as as an adult who grew up on the Harry Potter books and films, I can’t say I find much to love about these either. Though the Potter series went to some very dark places, it felt ultimately rooted in friends, family, love and morality. I can’t quite get to the bottom of what these films are rooted in. Maybe that will become more apparent in the third, fourth, fifth or twelfth installment. 

The character of Newt Scamander remains the obvious highlight of this series, and Redmayne’s portrayal of him is perfection. Though it gets very little screen time, Newt’s relationship with potential love interest Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) is one of the more interesting components of the film, though it is clumsily addressed at times. 

Jude Law is superb as Albus Dumbledore, and if I look forward to anything in the coming installments, its him and Newt. Depp does a fine job as Grindelwald. He’s still quite capable of onscreen villainy.

Some of the current political undertones running through Grindelwald’s rise in the film seemed like an easy dunk, if not a tad heavy handed. However, there is a sequence later in the film where a projection of real-life future horrors is thrust upon people of the time. It was an effective look at the good intentions often confused and misled in the machine of propaganda.

Despite some compelling characters and really cute magic beasts, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is a drag. 

Status: Do Not Recommend

Brandon Semler can be reached at popdiversifies@gmail.com, or on Twitter @BrandonSemler.

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