The “Fantastic Beasts” franchise comes back to theatres this holiday season with its second film in the series. “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” follows Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and fellow wizards on their adventurous quest to find Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), who was assumed to be dead after the first film. Perhaps it was the two years between “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and this most recent installment, but this reporter felt remarkably unconcerned about the trials and tribulations of the characters in the film.
It’s easy to say that the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise will never live up to the wizarding world of Harry Potter, yet director David Yates will certainly try his best. “The Crimes of Grindelwald” had a few more nods to the details of the “Harry Potter” films that fans know and love. However, there were some aspects of the plot that too closely mirrored the relationships in the “Harry Potter” films. In this film, the audience is finally introduced to a young Albus Dumbledore, who teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts. Dumbledore and Scamander have a very similar relationship to Dumbledore and Potter in the “Harry Potter” franchise. In both series, Dumbledore has a quest for only the younger wizards to complete, offering ambiguous advice to aid Scamander and Potter.
While audiences can get past these similarities, it is Jude Law’s performance as Dumbledore that is too difficult to see past. Law’s acting style is too specific to his previous roles to successfully take on a character as important as Dumbledore. Perhaps it is because we meet a younger Dumbledore, but the charms and wisdom of an older Dumbledore are simply not emulated in this film. In addition to the failure to cast a strong Dumbledore, Grindelwald’s casting falls short as well. Johnny Depp plays the central villain of the “Fantastic Beasts” series, and it is impossible to see past his well-known acting style. Grindelwald comes off as more of a socially anxious wizard than a villainous mastermind in the same league of destruction as Voldermort.
Although these two main characters’ performances fall short, Zoe Kravitz’s portrayal of Leta Lestrange is the life preserver for a drowning film. Lestrange briefly made an appearance in the first film, suggesting a past relationship between her and Scamander. In this second film, we learn much more about Lestrange and her past, complete with flashbacks to her time as an adolescent wizard at Hogwarts. Kravitz gives an enchanting portrayal of Lestrange and entices audiences to learn more about her backstory.
While Lestrange’s character is a redeeming quality of the film, the entirety of the story falls short. The visual effects and music score hold strong, true to expectations, but it is not enough to distract from an overwhelming amount of plot points with too many characters to keep track of. The film concludes with a cliffhanger, encouraging audiences to return to theatres for the unnamed third installment of the series, expected to premiere in 2020. But after another two years between films, it’s doubtful that the excitement over underdeveloped characters and an overcomplicated story will hold.