The Jakarta Post
A still from 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.' (Warner Bros./File)
The Harry Potter universe that writer JK Rowling has created, by the virtue of her beautiful, labyrinthine mind, is huge and enveloping.
Intricacy is key: Snape’s arc with Harry that runs through seven of the books, Hogwarts’ curriculum, the sorting of the Houses.
Each character probably has a family tree; they are given the stature of a character, they are not mere plot
It is no wonder that the film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, with Rowling returning as screenwriter, feels like a mega-expansion on an already well-structured, intricate universe.
Now extricated from the burden of establishing a sub-universe, populated by the “Magizoologist” Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), the Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), No-Maj/muggle Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and more, The Crimes of Grindelwald finds Rowling and director David Yates, in his sixth turn as director in this franchise, throwing ideas at the wall, trying to see which ones stick and deciding that yes, they all stick.
But the ideas do not stick. At least not all of them.
Ideas are cluttered while the overarching theme of the movie — connecting the Fantastic Beasts to Harry Potter — feels lighter than it should. Of course, nobody but Rowling could create this kind of mess, which still holds an allure unto itself, it is still a coherent universe that springs out of her mind and is handled with care.
The Crimes of Grindelwald concerns Scamander who is given a task by none other than Albus Dumbledore, with his younger version portrayed by Jude Law.
He needs to go to Paris, to bring him the tortured man Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller) because he is a key element in neutralizing the terror that the wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) brings. He wants to rule over the wizarding world and the muggle world, where civilians like you and me live.
In his path, Scamander runs into Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) and her brother, Theseus Scamander (Callum Turner).
Lestrange, sharing the surname with Bellatrix, the villain from the Harry Potter books, is given a plot for herself in which she keeps questioning her conscience.
Scamander, meanwhile, tries to awkwardly woo back Tina Goldstein. Kowalski and Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) are star-crossed lovers who try to defy the law that prohibits an American wizard from marrying a muggle.
It is a lot.
The Crimes of Grindelwald, as a result, feels awkward, especially since this is only the second film from the planned five-film universe.
Nonetheless, the crux of the film lies in the eponymous Grindelwald, whose diabolical masterminding Depp does not sell memorably. He is a manipulative, skilled wizard, but that is it. Hopefully more of his threatening aura might come to the fore in the next films.
Speaking of the acting, all of the actors in the movie are competent.
Redmayne does his awkward, compulsive thing with the same nuance as before, Waterston is as stern as ever. Sudol and Fogler, while again relegated into supporting acts, pull them off — turning a very human plight and folding it into the wizarding world pretty well.
But The Crimes of Grindelwald may very well function as just another setup; it is devoid of anything that makes it stand out. Of course, the “beasts” that Scamander keeps are still here and they all work, they’re cute, useful.
Which brings us to Hogwarts, the beloved school that is featured in The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Concerning the storyline between Grindelwald and Dumbledore — Rowling once suggested that Dumbledore harbored a romantic love for Grindelwald — Rowling deftly handles this unraveling pretty well.
But it never fails to warm my heart each time I see Hogwarts, hear the mention of the “polyjuice” (the juice that turns you into another person) or the many spells.
I feel like there’s an urge in studio franchises these days when they try to tap into our nostalgia by way of a reboot or a remake. The Crimes of Grindelwald is neither of those things, but it is still an entry that is a part of the universe that Rowling helms.
Suffice to say that we are in good hands but we will see.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
(134 minutes; Warner Bros. Pictures, Heyday Films)
Director: David Yates
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Jacob Kowalski, Zoë Kravitz, Ezra Miller, Jude Law, Johnny Depp