After escaping from the custody of the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) has begun to lead a movement with the ulterior motive of giving pure-blood wizards complete rule of No-Majs. His former friend, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), recruits his old student, Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), to stop him in "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald."
Director David Yates's "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" was an unexpected delight, familiar to the Potterverse yet introducing new characters in new environments. While still dealing with themes of fascism, Newt Scamander's passion for protecting all kinds of magical creatures provided playful visual splendors.
But with this second installment, J.K. Rowling has fallen into the bridging trap, giving us a sequel that mostly spins its wheels setting up the next installment. And while she's weaving hinted bits of Dumbledore's past into this world's present, it is beginning to feel all too familiar, Harry's story retold as his mentor's. Hard core fans may lap up new details on old tidbits, but aside from an amusing method for subduing the huge feline Zouwu, "The Crimes of Grindelwald" bogs down, many of its CGI-laden effects uninspired.
The theme here is taking sides, something Newt is unwilling to do, at least at the film's onset. With Dumbledore unable to move against Grindelwald for a reason he will not state, he enlists his old student to travel to Paris. But Newt has had his travel privileges revoked because of his New York adventure. He's also estranged from Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), reinstated to MACUSA’s Auror ranks, because his brother Theseus's (Callum Turner) engagement to Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) has been incorrectly reported as his own. He finds an ally in No-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), whose memory has been jogged by Tina's sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), rebelling against MACUSA rules that do not permit pure blooded wizards mixed relationships. (Brothers and sisters are also a throughline, one character, being revealed by Grindelwald at film's end as the brother of another.)
The action switches between London and Paris with a stop at Hogwarts where Dumbledore's class is interrupted by his own, some of whom may be on the wrong side (in addition to Law's young Albus, Fiona Glascott portrays a young Minerva McGonagall). At Paris's Circus Arcanus, outcast magicals are exploited, Maledictus Nagini (Claudia Kim) transforming into the giant snake of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." Everyone's searching for Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), now unkillable in his present incarnation as an Obscurus, fearing he may be Grindelwald's secret weapon. As Grindelwald, Johnny Depp, one iris blasted, his hair platinum, speaks in that affected accent he's picked up, his seductive voice swaying many to his side, his revelation of the upcoming horrors of WWII the force he claims intent on fighting. New characters such as Newt's assistant Bunty (Victoria Yeates) and ancient alchemist Nicolas Flamel (Brontis Jodorowsky) are thrown into the mix with little relevance.
Picket and the Niffler, now with its own brood of babies, are back. An underwater Kelpie is introduced with no purpose. The calling of Grindelwald's followers is visualized with black furls across the sky resembling unformed Death Eaters. Black feline Matagots are cartoonish.
"Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald" is guilty of its own crime. It has a few moments, but on the whole it's boring.
Robin did not see this film.
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