FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD Continues Rowling's Rambling Wreck

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Credit: Warner Brothers, makers of these confusing Potter prequels and the DC cinematic disaster. They should maybe cancel everything not related to Wonder Woman.

I don't get it. Any of it. Clearly, J.K. Rowling's latest film franchise is beyond me. That bothers me a bit because I greatly enjoyed the Harry Potter films, except for the Deathly Hallows Part One, or as I call it, "The one where the puberty-angsty teen wizards go camping and whine at each other for almost three hours." Hey, at least I understood what they were doing and why, I just thought it was terribly boring. 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald continues the languid pacing of the first film, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, and can cure insomnia like nothing I've seen since The International back in 2009. If you haven't seen that one, keep it that way. I watched the first Fantastic Beasts movie for the first time just four days prior to the screening of the second one, and my wonderful girlfriend had to watch it one and a half times by repeatedly rolling it back 15 minutes at a time whenever I feel asleep. I was excited and interested when we started it. After struggling through both films now I think I'm done. She thinks otherwise and she's usually right and that's why we get along so well.
 
I'm so bloody confused I don't even really know how to talk about it. Let's talk about the franchise title -- Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, I'm told, is the name of a Hogwart's textbook. Why on earth would we need five films to explain how Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) authored a textbook? On the other hand, if you're like me and have only a layman's knowledge of the Potterverse and don't expound on minutiae of Luna Lovegood's favorite bookmark in a half-dozen internet fan group chats on a nightly basis, you might think, "Hey, this sounds fun! Magical creatures, cataloging them for posterity, maybe it will be a social comment on species preservation today, I can get behind that." Nope. Not even close. There's a baby platypus whose sire was a Dungeons and Dragons bag of holding and a little stick guy who wishes he was Groot. Oh, and some feral Cheshire cat that Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) isn't particularly nice to. None are truly fantastic (even Deadpool understands the fantastical qualities of unicorns) and they're mostly just distracting. 
 
No, this is the Potterverse equivalent of the Star Wars prequels, right down to the opening chase scene, the forlorn young man who gets told he can't do what he wants to do, the subsequent meeting with an older gent who sends him off on some fool idealistic crusade...sound familiar? Disposable characters that you're never made to care about; It's just name-dropping; a wink and a nod to the diehard fans. It's an inside joke that will be stretched thinner than "The Hobbit" trilogy was. Hey, is that Nagini girl (Claudia Kim) Voldemort's pet snake? That's...unpleasant to think about. Oh, that's Zoë Kravitz and her character is related to Beatrix Lestrange...why should we care? I still don't know. Jude Law shows up as a young Dumbledore. He cajoles Newt to go after Grindelwald, even though the mumbling cryptozoologist wizard just wants to go look for fantastic beasts like he was on the hunt for rare Pokémon. Why? Clearly Rowling is telling a very broad tale of Dumbledore versus Grindelwald, so why not cut out the middleman -- Redmayne was more dynamic and better understood in Les Misérables then what he's contributing to this franchise -- and name this film "The Early Adventures of Dumbledore" or something? 
 
Again, as in the first film, director David Yates spends way too much time espousing too much exposition with too many shots of wizards standing around talking and talking and talking. There's a bit more action in this one, but it's action for the sake of action if the average fans like me can't find the reason behind it.  The drab, washed out color palette in this film doesn't help keep one awake either. It's sleep-inducing like a cold, gray winter day. And it's surprising, because Yates helmed the last four films of the Harry Potter series. The Potterheads (or whatever the true fans are called) will probably eat this film up, pay for the needless 3D gimmick four times and keep it in first place at the box office for a month. But unless you really prefer a noisy movie theatre to sleep off that last giant scoop of turkey stuffing than over favorite chair and the NFL doubleheader, you could wait for it to get to Netflix. Even if you don't understand what the significance of anyone and anything is, it's still a decent choice for a good date night. 
Grade: 
1.0 / 5.0