If I were to summarize my reaction to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in two words, they would be: disappointing and utterly unmagical (oops, I cheated about the two-word rule… kind of like J.K. Rowling did in writing the movie).
I had pretty high expectations for this movie after the first Fantastic Beasts movie, which was filled with beautiful animations of magical creatures within Newt’s briefcase, exciting romances and unexpected friendships, and an engaging, clear narrative. The first movie was an introduction into the series with fun explorations of the relationship between the magical and non-magical communities when Newt’s magical creatures accidentally get released in New York. None of the magic or excitement holds true for the second movie. It has a horribly meandering plot with an excess of characters who are poorly introduced and developed; the focus of the main characters and their relationships doesn’t continue well from the first movie; and, honestly, the whole movie was confusing, badly plotted, and, above all, kind of boring.
Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald starts off with the escape of Grindelwald. Albus Dumbledore, once a close friend of the rising villain, requests that Newt be the one to find Grindelwald, whose main mission is to bring back power to the magical community and have them overtake non-magical peoples. Newt hesitantly agrees, though many different people have dispatched on a mission to track down Grindelwald: Tina, the aurar and Newt’s love interest from the first movie; Credence, the emotionally troubled and morally ambiguous young boy; and, strangely, a completely random new character, the head of a prominent African magical family. All these people have their own convoluted motivations. Either way, by the end of the movie, Grindelwald does present himself to the patched-up and disorientingly written cast of characters; choices must be made and battle lines drawn.
Though the plot sounds promising in theory, its execution was the worst I’ve ever seen of Rowling’s writing. There were too many characters in this movie– Albus Dumbledore, the African auror I’d mentioned, Credence, his new girlfriend Nagini (where did she come from anyway?– there was absolutely no substantial context given for this), Newt’s brother, Newt’s brother’s fiance (both characters who were abruptly and poorly introduced into the mix), and at some point, even Nicholas Flamel (I can’t even comment on how disorienting his appearance was)– all this, I must add, in addition to our four main characters, Jacob, Tina, Queenie, and Newt. None of the characters were developed in the movie, and their relationships even less so.
The biggest problem to the plot was the sudden introduction of new and seemingly tangential information by the third quarter of the movie. It was inorganic and confusing to the audience. More shocking was how important this sudden information was to the end of the movie. Perhaps Rawling was attempting to set the stage for the next few movies, but the attempt was too ambitious– it was a grossly oversized cast of characters, a confusingly patched-up plot, and an unsatisfactory ending. Rowling, I think, works best in prose and novels, where there is ample space to develop all the narrative aspects to their fullest.
Despite having a distaste for this movie, I can still say that I’m too enchanted by the wizarding world to quit consuming Rowling’s media anytime soon. I hope, at least, that the next movie is much, much better than this one.