Arts & Culture

Review: Fantastic Beasts’ commits crimes of exposition

Michael Olderr, Contributor

The Crimes of Grindelwald” is, for some reason, the second movie in the “Fantastic Beasts” saga, which is weird since it is neither about beasts or fantastic. The film is about Newt Scamander as he goes to Paris to stop Grindelwald’s plans for wizarding domination. He is teamed up with the characters from the past movie and new faces in order to overcome Grindelwald and his followers. That’s what the movie tries to tell you it is about. It is, however, a series of exposition dumps every five minutes and boring plot points covered in a thick gauze of nostalgia whose only saving grace is a pirate from the Caribbean.

The entire film loses its magic almost at the get-go when the film blatantly tells you the plot “Grindelwald is bad, so go and get him.” This, along with every other line of dialogue, is a blatant exposition dump, which makes it more of a trivia section from the Harry Potter Wiki than a film. This ruins what could have been some fascinating characters such as Zoë Kravitz’s character whose role is ruined her entire story being told to us either by her or people around her. On paper, that’s a good thing, but her backstory was executed very poorly.

The same could be said for Ezra Miller’s character, Creedence. “The Crimes of Grindelwald” has only a fraction of what made him such an interesting character in the previous installment. So while exposition is a quality in every film, this film does not treat it like the necessary evil that it is supposed to be but the building blocks of the film’s leaning tower, which falls over quite easily and destroys any semblance of a meaningful story and plot, save for one element.

In the film, the titular villain is played by Johnny Depp, and with his personal life aside, he stands out as the film’s only saving grace. Depp gives perhaps one of his best performances in years as arguably the best villain portrayal in the entire Harry Potter saga. He easily stands up to Ralph Fiennes’ portrayal of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. While Voldemort is a powerful villain that literally screamed evil, Depp’s character is a more subtle menace. From the very beginning, Grindelwald is shown to be a cunning and persuasive wizard. He is a threat that captivates not only with his raw power but also with his silver tongue. He’s interesting, even when every fiber of your being says you should run and hide. His scenes not only improve the film’s plot but also the other characters around him, making some of the film’s best moments. Unlike all the other characters in the movie, Grindelwald is treated like a character and not an encyclopedia page. Though the film teases an interesting relationship between his character and Jude Law’s Dumbledore, little is shown of this, much to the film’s detriment. Overall, Johnny Depp’s character is the best in a shaky and uneven film that sets up an interesting story if the franchise continues.

While the first “Fantastic Beasts” film was a fun ride, the sequel tries to make the cast of characters bigger and more important than what they should have been. They belong in a spinoff Harry Potter movie, not in this ever-growing five-part prequel saga. If this series should survive, it should remove “Fantastic Beasts” from the title and focus more on the dynamic between Dumbledore and Grindelwald. While the story is there, if this movie has anything to go by, there is no magic in sight for the series.

This article was originally published in the Nov. 30, 2018 issue.