Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a complicated film. It is possible to reach this conclusion not because of its story, but because of its failures, which end up being much superior to its qualities. It’s really a shame that screenwriter J.K. Rowling, the mind behind the entire “Harry Potter” saga, has not condensed plots and developed characters in a satisfactory way, because that failure has generated a dense, but absolutely confusing film.
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A legion of “Harry Potter” fans will be on the opening day of the film for the sake of this magical saga – in every way. What everyone expects is a two-hour amusement that will take them back to the mystical land of wizards, that was so successful in the first decade of this century. In this sense, the film is victorious. The technical quality of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is undeniable, having several attractions. However, anyone who pays a little attention to what is being told realizes that all this dedication to production hides a movie empty of meaning.
Harry Potter for adults
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald seems a direct continuation of the 2016 film, but in many passages, it appears to be a kind of reboot. This was because the previous feature, which got relatively successful reviews and charmed the audience, had a well-defined narrative line, with beginning, middle and end, leaving a hook for a possible next film. Rowling’s decision to make four more films posed a question: how to stretch a story that was, by itself, rather shallow? The solution was to use this second production to “start again”: we are not presented again to the characters, because they are sure that we already know who they are, but the plot seems to go around falsely all the time, trying to justify everything. The film has a beginning (overwhelming, by the way), but it has no middle and no end. It serves as a bridge for the next – but it is an empty, soulless bridge.
This kind of “Harry Potter for adults” draws attention because of its production design. Director David Yates, “imported” from the last films of the cinema’s most famous wizard, knew how to give the film a heavy atmosphere, as if a danger hung in the air at all times. The darker photograph, with scenes that weigh hand in the cold colors, give the impression of danger and even a certain sadness. We are always warned that a larger force is ready to seize power, either by the speech of some character, or because of the oppression created by the climate of production.
The performances, in turn, are correct. Johnny Depp can even develop his Grindelwald, even if it doesn’t mean a lot – the mystery air surrounding the character prevents us from knowing all his motivations (certainly, producers thought it was best to keep this information for the next films). And as incredible as it may sound, he’s the highlight. All the others are poorly delineated: although the feature has two hours, almost none of them have sufficient screen time to construct a performance that explains who they are and what they came for.
A narrative problem
This is the biggest problem of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. There are too many characters for little story. The film seems inflated, with people coming and going without any explanation to justify their inclusion in the film. It is a narrative problem common to children’s films that intend to stretch their plot to other films. The idea here is that Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald serves as a bridge to larger plots that will appear in the next few years. However, this bridge is already burnt, because the story goes in circles, presenting nothing relevant until its final minutes.
The revelation shown in the last minutes of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is shocking to fans of the series, but it seems totally forced. It does not justify spending a couple of hours at the movies just for that. The impression that passes is that a short film was stretched to the maximum, with swollen cast, to adapt to the cinema and the long format. It’s really a shame because everything else ranges from excellent (costumes, special effects, production design) to reasonable (performances).
Finally, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald does not fulfill the promise of being one of the great cinematographic events of the year, with great cultural impact, as “Avengers: Infinity War” was. Certainly, this will happen between the fourth and fifth films of this saga – by then, we will have to put up with a little cooing, but that will make the joy of those who love entering the magical world created by J. K. Rowling.
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