The magical wizarding world that author J.K. Rowling created has been gracing our screens since 2001, resulting in nine feature films. In these last 17 years, the films have been referred to as delightful, enchanting, ambitious, dark, funny, and visual spectaculars. But today for the first time in nearly two decades, its latest instalment is going to be called boring, nonsensical and dull. ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ is director David Yates' sixth stint in the wizarding world - including the first ‘Fantastic Beasts’ - and I’d like to say he’s not to blame here, but he did make the damn thing. No, the title of fantastic failure lies in its screenplay thanks to none other than J.K. herself.
Look, things started rough when weeks before the film’s release, eagle-eyed Potterheads noticed that the character Professor McGonagall (originally played by Maggie Smith) was to appear in the new film... a film set in 1927 (i.e. eight years before said character was even meant to be born, let alone be a full fledged adult). So once we (yes “we”) knew that the 'Harry Potter' canon was now scattered to the wind, all bets were off and, as it turns out, all hell broke loose.
It’s 1927. Evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise) A.K.A. Voldemort Mark 1 has escaped the clutches of the Ministry of Magic in New York, and sets about assembling the dominoes for his master plan. Meanwhile over in London, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, ‘The Theory of Everything’) is lodging yet another fruitless appeal to the Ministry to lift his travel ban when Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law, ‘Spy’) tasks him with going after Grindelwald in Paris as he is unable to for typically Dumbledore mysterious reasons. Along the way we also meet Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz, TV’s ‘Big Little Lies’), Newt’s brother Theseus (Callum Turner, ‘Assassin's Creed’), Tina, Queenie and Jacob make returns, as does Credence, the key to Grindelwald’s plan and his offsider, an inexplicable snake woman played by Claudia Kim (‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’).
While it pains me to say this, J.K. Rowling did a really terrible job with this screenplay. The whole thing is lazy, contrived, and has way too much exposition. If the rumours are true then we have at least three more ‘Fantastic Beasts’ films to look forward to, but ‘Crimes of Grindelwald’ smacks of a two-hour setup piece whose payoff is still years away. In the 'Harry Potter' films, we always knew that a showdown between Harry and Voldemort was the end game, but in between we had marvellous adventures to pass the time and edge us closer until that day arrived. In the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ world, there appears to simply be a point A and a point B, and from the looks of things, there are going to be many wasted cinematic hours joining those two points. Nowhere in this new film does anyone try to curb fans' and cinemagoers' issues and concerns with its protagonist, villain and sidekicks appointed after the first film. Instead it just shoves more in, gives them convoluted backstories to try to tie them in with ‘Harry Potter’, giving fans a nice little jolt, but ultimately it comes at the detriment of the film and story as a whole. When you create an entire franchise around a man who deals in magical creatures, it’s limiting when he’s not strong or a fighter or a particularly gifted wizard, leaving you to derive the action and excitement elsewhere and force the appearance of said creatures where they don’t belong. Again, lazy.
The whole thing is lazy, contrived, and has way too much exposition.
With new generations of 'Harry Potter' readers being introduced yearly the thirst for more of this world is vast and growing, but that doesn’t mean you can take advantage of their loyalty or their perceived knowledge. We the audience demand and expect excellence and originality from those who showed us that it was possible, so I don’t think it’s too much to ask that that continues. We’ll give you this one, but now it’s time to get your shit back together.