Well that was disappointing.
Synopsis: At the end of the first film, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald was captured by the Magical Congress of the United States of America, with the help of Newt Scamander. But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escaped custody and has set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings. In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world. (Warner Bros.)
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, and Dan Fogler
Writer: J.K. Rowling
Director: David Yates
Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 134mins
When you thought that the first Fantastic Beasts was done setting up what could potentially five film series, you thought wrong. All the setting up in the previous film only held the story back but in this film, it’s even worse as this film suffers from having little to no story whatsoever. Whatever story the film had was unfortunately buried under a surplus of superfluous characters and subplots that will inevitably appear again in later films that only made the story convoluted and harder to follow or even care about what happened.
For those who haven’t seen the previous film, it ended with the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) being captured by the Magical Congress of America. Of course Crindelwald escapes and it is up to Newt Scamander (Redmayne) to stop him. If only that was everything going on here but it unfortunately isn’t. There are too many subplots associated with its new characters (and some with the old ones) to name but all they did was hold the main story back by taking it in so many unnecessary directions that the film became hard to follow and after a while, care. This also makes the film a chore to watch as little to nothing of substance actually happens (other than one ridiculous reveal) over the film’s 2+ hour running time.
Having too many character and subplots is one thing but though mostly incoherent and nonsensical nature and their haphazard construction is another. This choice simply reeked of trying to fit too much material into one film and the film couldn’t even sustain them anyway as subplots would just appear and be dropped without any explanation or payoff. The biggest subplot was surprisingly not about Grindelwald himself but rather about Credence Barebone’s (Ezra Miller) true identity. Since the film failed to make us care about these subplots individually, it unsurprisingly got worse once these subplots inevitably converged. In order to get to that to point, the plot would make several ridiculous leaps, each more ridiculous than the last, to justify itself.
Technically speaking, the film may have quite a lot to offer but it almost didn’t matter because of the less than compelling story. The beasts themselves, while fewer than in the previous film, were still somewhat fun to watch despite their lesser impact on the story this time around because they never seemed to fit with the darker story. The score was quite impressive as well as the costumes and set design were perhaps the best parts of the film, however, they could only go as far as the rest of the film. There film also had some somewhat exciting action set pieces although it was hard to care about what was happening.
The performances were okay across the board but the film’s convoluted nature meant that some did not have all that much to do (at least for now) though the mediocre dialog didn’t do them any favors. Redmayne as Scamander did the best he could and was compelling enough to watch. Waterston, Fogler, and Alison Sudol all returned as Tina, Jacob, and Queenie respectively and were fine, however, the charm that they had with Redmayne was nonexistent here. Depp was okay as Grindelwald despite having little to nothing to do. The same could be said for Jude Law who joined the series as a younger Dumbledore. Although the film will obviously not be the last we’ll see of Dumbledore, it didn’t give him much of a chance.
Overall, this was a disappointing sequel and a convoluted and incoherent mess that destroys all the good will that the first film created. The film may boast some decent set pieces and a great score, however, too many characters and too many subplots made it difficult to follow or even care about anything. It was so focused on setting up for future films with more information than necessary that it failed to tell a complete story here. Perhaps there was never enough story to begin with? The first film may have been promising despite its problems but we are heading close to beating a dead horse territory though some believe that we’re already there.
*Fantastic Beasts: The Crime of Grindelwald opens in theatres on November 16th*