BEIRUT: It has been two years since audiences were gifted their chance to revisit the Wizarding World created by J.K. Rowling almost twenty-one years ago, via Newt Scamader and his human companions, both magical and non-magical, as well as his fantastic beasts.
In the first film FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM, Rowling crafts a wondrous tale filled with the same enchantments and heart that one would find in the magical world of Harry Potter.
At the end of the first film, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) was captured by MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), with the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne).
As this sequel, Grindelwald unconvincingly escaps custody and sets about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings.
So, naturally in an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists Newt, his former student, 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.
Upon reading the above synopsis, nothing but pure excitement should fill one’s mind for the possibilities and exciting adventures that lie ahead.
Unfortunately, the only wonder within this film happens to be in its mise-en-scene, its score, and where it suffers the most is in its screenplay.
Narratively, FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD is exhaustingly lengthy and overstuffed with events and plot holes that one has to wonder whether J.K. Rowling’s power as a storyteller remains within the hardcovers of novels instead of the fade in and out of a screenplay.
Where the first film found its charm in its simple story arc, characters, and pacing, the sequels fires off dramatic beats so fast inducing narrative motion sickness.
Due to the many additional characters introduced on top of the already established characters, none are allowed enough time to flourish on screen enough to land any form of effect on the audience.
Dumbledore and Grindelwald are both barely given screen time though out of the entirety of the characters their story seemed to be the most intriguing to learn and the audience barely learns anything new about them – honestly, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS gave more in depth story about them than the film starring them.
Queenie’s storyline in this film is by far the most powerful and yet it was also rushed and that weakened it’s strength and message that anyone who is experiencing pain and discrimination (inter-discrimination in this instance) can be manipulated.
Characters like Nagini and Leta Lestrange are all but side-lined and end up being nothing more than token Easter eggs for fan-service, which is a shame because both of those characters hold a lot of relevance for the story about the boy who lived.
And, herein lies the sequel’s biggest flaw, the story!
Not only does the film have lengthy expository scenes, but it also has revelations that, much like the film’s tagline states, will change everything forever and divide the wizarding world.
It seems J.K. Rowling is rewriting Wizarding World history and this is a very dangerous thing to do because it harms the much beloved Harry Potter story by creating plot holes and raising questions.
The film transcends visually and offers some of the most beautiful and magical images since HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE.
The dodgy CGI that some of the creatures had in the first film is all but gone here, and made much better as the interaction between creature and human is more concrete and realistic.
Though there did seem to be a lack of spells being cast and magical duels, the film’s climax does exhibit an ambitious battle between good and evil.
From the magical creatures, to the costumes, spells, and magical locations, FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD delivers jaw-dropping sequences and raises the magical bar in visual effects.
The score by James Newton Howard is as spell-binding as its predecessor bringing the audience new musical themes while building upon the character motifs established in the first film.
The worry for this franchise’s future stems from Rowling’s lack of understanding of how screenplays and films work, in addition to her revising histories that she had already established via the novels that gifted her the fame and the fanbase.
The Harry Potter franchise’s success came from the powerful story within the novels that was adapted into a screenplay by Steve Kloves who did a wonderful job bringing the themes, characters, and their arcs onto the screen.
Here J.K. Rowling is playing and experimenting with a new medium that doesn’t seem to suit her.
Sure, FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM works and is a decent film, but this second entry is messy and quite childish, though its themes are much darker than those of Harry Potter.
There is no doubt that the third and fifth films will be much stronger than this entry and the fourth entry, which will serve as filler stories as Rowling brings this tale to a close.
As the saying goes, you can’t catch lightning in a bottle twice…
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