Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Bad Story Telling

I left this movie confused. There was a bad taste in my mouth because I’m not sure how a sequel to a great movie could have ended up being so mishandled. The 2018 film directed by David Yates, the director of the first Fantastic Beasts movie, and written by J.K Rowling, the writer of the first movie as well as the 7 Harry Potter novels, had too much going on. This one movie alone could have been 3 separate films. We have the plot of Grindelwald and his crimes, Newt and his love triangles, and Credence finding his purpose. The problem is that when you pack so much in, the movie doesn’t get to focus enough on one plot point enough.

As soon as I heard about the title of this sequel, ‘Fantastic beasts and The Crimes of Grindelwald’ I thought what a lot of people thought, “what does Dumbledore’s ex boyfriend have to do with the Fantastic Beasts?” Turns out that’s the feeling of the entire film. Newt, played by Eddie Radmayne, returns to be his regular lovable self; along with Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, and Dan Fogler. In my personal opinion this story should have been the entire sequel. I mean the title of the movie series is titled “Fantastic Beasts” so I would assume these characters would be treated as the mains. We get to see even more magnificent CGI creatures and Newt showing his interesting, and borderline creepy, knowledge for their individual care and needs. Including the return of my personal favorite, the Niffler! Newt and Tina continue their awkward building relationship but we include another love interest mentioned in the first movie, Leta Lestrange, played by Zoe Kravitz (yes that is Lenny Kravitz’s daughter) to make it a full love triangle. We get to see a bit of Newt’s past as well as his family and I honestly loved every second of it. Jacob and Goldie get to expand on their confusing relationship in a time were muggles and witches are not socially acceptable in the community (We get the metaphor, everyone should love everyone, please stop making metaphors for gay people and interracial couples in a universe where there are gay couples and interracial couples). This was my favorite plot line because I love these characters and ultimately it is what most people showing up to the theater want to see. Which is why the rest of the film felt so fucking forced.

I would be lying if I also wasn’t interested when I heard about sexy Dumbledore being cast as Jude Law. The thing is, I thought his part in the story would be more of a cameo type role. The story of Grindelwald and Dumbledore (something hardly mentioned in the Harry Potter books but somehow has a huge fan following) is basically confirmed and elaborated on. But everything about this part of the story seems like it’s only purpose is to set up for future films. The “main villain” is Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp, and I have to say I wasn’t impressed. The performance was really good actually. I think Johnny Depp earned a little more respect by proving he’s so much more than Jack Sparrow. And the way the character was written legitimately made it more plausible that ordinary wizards would want to side with him even though he is a killer. But he just didn’t do anything. For a movie supposedly being all about his “crimes” he didn’t exactly commit many of them. The third section of the movie, which made the least sense and was more confusing to interpret then a newspaper in a blender, was Credance Barebone’s, played by Ezra Miller. He returns to find out his past and expand his character. The thing is, his story felt done to me. I didn’t need to know his background or heritage because, in the first fantastic Beasts he was a symbol for oppressed wizards. Now his character is forced to be more important than it needed to be. He goes on a journey to find his parents that… Is just boring as fuck. We meet characters that have no importance and do nothing. All of the time with him on-screen could have been used on Newt’s story. Actually for some reason Newt’s story and Credence’s come together along with Grindelwald’s in a scene that just has all the characters meet in a room together coincidentally and then has them all just explain the mysteries that the movie was too lazy to show. And it’s a fucking mess.

I really loved the Harry Potter books and the wizarding world. The first Fantastic Beasts movie was refreshing and I liked the idea of them expanding on the universe. But this new movie reversed that feeling by making everything a direct prequel to the Harry Potter franchise. There are tons of references to characters I don’t remember. I felt confused while the movie acted like you should already know all about the complex bloodline of a family tree for a witch family of a side character. There’s a difference between a movie expanding on a universe by introducing new characters and new situations, and a movie that just explains “well this is exactly the things that happened that directly affected the other movies”. Fantastic Beasts 2 does not feel like a sequel to the first film, it feels like a prequel to the originals. But worse it just feels like the second chapter in a series that will take 6 more years to complete. I know there are going to be 5 Fantastic Beasts movies and that there is an ultimate overall story, but I want to see individual movies be capable of retaining individual value. This film has no real closure, all it did was create set up for the next film. I feel  like I have to watch the next one out of obligation more than excitement. Which makes it even harder to actually review this film.

The Snappening has to be put on hold. The gauntlet is primed and ready, but because of the nature of a planned series, I can’t pull the trigger on this. I have to wait the 10 full years in order to decide if the series is valuable enough to survive. For now it does, but making a movie that will not have individual value is not a good thing. It saddens me that J.K Rowling wrote this movie because she is so incredibly talented. Leaving this film made me really that the Fantastic Beast series should just books instead. I love the CG monsters and all the actor’s portrayals. But whats more important is a coherent and full story. Books do not have restrictions. Make them 800 pages or 4000. People will read them. Movies on the other hand have to fit in time slots and get gutted by editors. Hopefully the next 3 movies will learn from this one and focus more on quality over quantity. In the mean time I’m just going to down enough butter beers until the plot starts to make sense.


Movie watched and review conjured by: Troy Smith

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