In October 2016, just one month after the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, JK Rowling – best known as the author of Harry Potter's bestselling books – announced that there would be a total of five films in the new prequel spin-off series. Immediately, it was clear that Warner Bros. and Rowling had decided to treat Pottermania as he deserved, regardless of the relevance of how the first entry would be received by the world. To fill these films (it would take more than 10 hours of content between the five chapters), Rowling dwelt on the great rivalry and frenzy that reigned between Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) and Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), at its peak. in the corners of the Potter books over the years.
The end point of the Fantastic Beasts series is already known. Grindelwald will be defeated in a legendary and imprisoned duel, which will also end the World War Wizards, parallel to the Muggle World War II. But since it must be saved for the fifth and final installment, Rowling had to create new characters and intrigues that the public would be interested in and invest in until we got there. After choosing an awkward starting point in Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), whose first outing was an old-fashioned Pokemon Go adventure marked by dark conspiracies and twists, Rowling now had to turn to conflictual conflict between the magical peoples and not magic. But not too fast, there are three left.
With the first sequel to the sequel – Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – this complicated and retroactive approach shows its side effects not only in the title, which makes no sense and simply consists of two entirely different things glued together. One beside the other for commercial reasons, but also in what is happening on the screen for more than two hours. Although many things are happening visually, with characters always moving from one place to another, the movie actually has very little success. The Hobbit feels that all is well, in the sense that time is running out, because too much progress will hurt future entries. Most of what happens is either immaterial or unimportant, even though there are several subplots in action at one time.
Having been captured at the end of the first film, Grindelwald escapes in the first five minutes of the sequel, as history demands. He travels to Paris in search of the orphaned Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), who seeks answers to his true kinship in the French capital. Dumbledore asks Newt to go to Paris to thwart Grindelwald's plans. He hesitates to get involved until he learns that Auror Tina Goldstein's promise (Katherine Waterston) is also present of her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) and her lover. No Maj Maj, Jacob. Kowalski (Dan Fogler), whose memory is restored because history requires it. The old love of Newt, Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz), who is now married to her brother Theseus (Callum Turner), and a Franco-Senegalese wizard named Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam) are also looking for answers. Ministry of Magic and in search of revenge, respectively.
Rowling's decision to send returning characters and new characters on separate trips would generally be satisfactory if it resulted in something substantial. But the film culminates in Grindelwald's great speech and a change of loyalty for certain characters, followed by a terrible "fight" culminating between two waves of blue and orange colors created by CGI. For what it's worth, the creatures – old and new – as weird as they are, including the one called Zouwu, which looks like a giant cat with an incredibly long and multicolored ruffled tail, all are wonderfully animated with visual effects of prime order. But they live in a world that is otherwise empty and dull. And by wanting to be darker than the original, The Crimes of Grindelwald relieves his characters, who are no longer as charming as before.
This does not help that many characters hang around with little connection to the story. This applies to Credence's new companion, Nagini (Claudia Kim), who is cursed with a curse of blood that will eventually see her permanently turning into a snake that will become Voldemort's pet which was naturally extremely controversial and criticized for his choices and his unconsciousness. And the same goes for Nicolas Flamel (Brontis Jodorowsky), an alchemist of several hundred years who would have discovered the philosopher's stone, who has fallen at random in the crimes of Grindelwald without discernible reason. But even the characters who have big tellers in the film, such as Leta and Credence, fail to land with the desired weight because the public has not yet developed a bond with them.
To make matters worse, the movie's dialogue sometimes seems to address the audience directly. The characters tell each other things of which they should already be aware – one explicitly reminds another of the death of their brother / sister – making their conversations quite abnormal. This is one of the obvious ways that Grindelwald's crimes handle exposure. But even when it comes to implicit messages – through Credence, Rowling talks about being the other in the world of others, hiding and learning about her past – the movie has nothing interesting to say about these topics. Credence's quest for who he is and where he comes from is reminiscent of Rey's journey into Star Wars, but unlike Rian Johnson's approach to The Last Jedi, Rowling further restricts his universe to the place to let him expand.
In fact, George Lucas' time in Star Wars is a good parallel for Rowling's participation in the Fantastic Beasts series. Lucas crumpled with the prequel trilogy at the turn of the century, creating new characters that seemed to exist just to be related to the older ones and that forever changed the mythology and, in turn, the canon. Star Wars has done a lot better since Lucas sold it to Disney, and maybe the Rowling universe could do the same with that, so that the original creator passes the torch. Although Potter's author has published well-written, well-written novels of hundreds of pages at an effervescent pace of two years or less, she has not been able to transfer this success to scenarios. Grindelwald's crimes do not make much sense. By trying to serve a whole while keeping an eye on the whole situation, Rowling fails to develop an engaging, meaningful, or even simply enjoyable narrative.