Film Review: Fantastic Beats: The Crimes of Grindelwald (12A)
- Credit: Archant
Second in the series is a mid-franchise muddle of convoluted back stories with some stunning sequences
In her later Potter books - and now as a screenwriter - JK Rowling has been sorely in need of a rigorous editor.
But the bigger her Wizarding world grows, the less likey that some brave minion will step forward to slash and shape her undoubted vision into digestible entertainment.
The second in her Fantastic Beasts spin-off suffers from a mid-franchise muddle that even diehard Potter fans would find hard to champion as a stand alone movie. But oh boy is it fabulous to behold. Helmed by David Yates, who successfully wrestled the last four Potter films into touch, it is bookended by two breathtaking sequences.
The opener; a jaw-dropping aerial jail-break by Johnny Depp’s wall-eyed Grindlewald, and the finale; a swirling blue and orange light show in the catacombs of Pere Lachaise (Highgate Cemetery standing in nicely for the Parisian burial ground) with a distinctly Nazi aesthetic to Grindlewald’s bid for pureblood wizarding domination.
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The 90 minutes in between boasts plenty of spectacle - not least Newt Scamander’s titular fantastic beasts - and some stunning interiors at the French Ministry of Magic.
But mostly it’s an unholy mess of misfiring jokes, loopy origin stories and convoluted plotting.
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We meet Newt’s brother Theseus, Nagini in bodily form, Jude Law’s not quite explicitly gay Dumbledore, and spend ages on the back story of a seemingly significant character, only for them to be obliterated in the final reel.
Depp hams it up as the muggle-baiting baddie but could do with a bit more of the supernatural about him, Law brings a conflicted charisma to Dumbledore, and Eddie Redmayne is ever watchable as the geeky animal-loving Newt, sweetly unable to declare his love for auror Tina Goldstein.
Bounded by a year at Hogwarts the Potter movies solved the franchise problem by getting us invested in the development of a crew of characters on a series of adventures. Here the gang is split up, chasing through atmospheric ‘20s Paris to find Ezra Miller’s silently moody Credence, who is himself on a quest to discover his parentage. (‘I want to know who I am.’ Really JK?)
But while there are thrills to the chase, Credence is absurdly easy to find - popping up everywhere from the Eiffel Tower to a circus freakshow - and the supposed tension is so much sound and fury.